Bouncing Around

You can jump for joy, jump a car, jump the moon. Kris Kros’ll
make you jump, jump. But just remember it’s most fun to get jumpy
in a jump house.
You can jump for joy, jump a car, jump the moon. Kris Kros’ll make you jump, jump. But just remember it’s most fun to get jumpy in a jump house.

Jump houses started more than 20 years ago with the introduction of Astro Jump boxes, 13-by-13-foot inflatable squares with protective, net sides that one jump house company owner says were originally used to train military divers, but the use of the inflatables has come a long way in the last two decades. Now inflatable products companies peddle everything from blow-up obstacle courses to air-filled gladiator arenas, mechanical bulls and slides.

“They’re getting a little more interactive,” said Manny Arreola, owner of The Bounce Company in Hollister. “There have always been slides. There have always been rock walls. But now people are requesting them more often and the companies are finding better ways to package them together.”

Arreola started his business

about four years ago with just three jump houses. Today he has 15, but business drags during winter. Since New Year’s, he has only had three customers.

Not content to watch business go dormant for another winter, Arreola has decided to get a little more progressive, too.

“We call it the inflatable party zone,” said Arreola. “I’ve got a warehouse location, and we’d like to put up six or seven bounce houses along with obstacle courses, rock walls and that kind of thing. After they’ve played for a while, the kids would head into their own private party room while another group could come in to play.”

Arreola hopes to have the new facility, which could operate regardless of weather conditions, opened by March.

Most jump house rentals are family-owned weekend businesses with little capital, but plenty of potential for high profits in the summer. A competitive market in the South Valley has forced several companies out of business, but one Gilroy couple is still in the industry and have successfully run their business for two seasons now.

“A lot of parents are starting to do them because it’s cheaper to do a party at the park than it is to have it at your house,” said Christine Rede, co-owner of Garlic City Jumps with husband Larry. “You can just barbeque and rent a jump house. You don’t have to worry about having a bunch of kids tear through your house.”

Rede, who works as a nurse in San Jose during the week, said the extra money they make from the business is their children’s college fund. She and her husband thought of the idea after renting several of the bouncers. Today, their supply fits neatly in the garage next to Larry’s Harley Davidson and pool table.

The only problem with the industry, said Rede, is insurance. “It’s very difficult to get insurance on jump houses,” said Rede. “Companies keep on dropping or changing or discontinuing the service because it’s so expensive. We’ve never had an injury. On all our jump houses it’s very clear – the weight limit and how many people can be inside.”

A family-oriented activity, jump houses are rented primarily for birthday parties, but are also increasingly popular for quinceañeras, graduation parties, first communions and even weddings, said Anoj Raj, owner of Jump and Giggle Inflatables in Hollister.

“People who are on their second or even their third marriages often have kids already, so it gives them something to do while the adults have their own gathering,” said Raj.

Raj recently rented a jump house to Tracy Nino to use during the grand opening of a housing development constructed by her family-run company, Nino Homes.

“I have three small children, so I had rented them for birthday parties,” said Nino. “We were having the grand opening of Nino Homes at Arroyo Seco, and I thought it would be a good thing to include.”

Nino’s grand opening featured a wine tasting for adults and a children’s garden filled with face painters, arts, crafts and the jump house, which was the hands-down favorite of the kids.

“We had 400 to 500 people come through, and I think it really helped us to control the traffic,” said Nino. “The kids had fun, and the parents could take their time going through the models.”

Unfortunately, not every customer is so satisfied. Morgan Hill resident Rick Ankiel was enjoying the jump house he and neighbors had rented for a Labor Day block party in 2002 when he crashed to the floor of the structure with “the most excruciating pain” in his thigh.

Dismissing it as something relatively minor, he refused medical attention and was taken home in a neighbor’s pickup truck. An MRI done nearly one week later showed he had a far more serious problem than expected, a 50 percent rupture of his quadriceps tendon.

The tear required immediate surgery. Between that, the physical therapy and the painful recovery that have followed, bills have totaled more than $15,000.

Ankiel’s insurance company has taken care of the expenses, but he continues to warn parents of the dangers a jump house can cause, though he has never contacted the owner or operator of the jump house to press his complaint.

“What I found is that if you weigh over 100 pounds the things aren’t really designed to support your body weight,” said Ankiel, who was a competitive cyclist in his spare time before the accident.

“I’m probably in the top 1 percent of physically fit people in the United States,” he continued. “I ride my bike 8,000 to 9,000 miles a year, and I work out. It’s not like I’m a 400-pound guy who shouldn’t have gotten in the thing in the first place.”

Ankiel sports a six-inch scar on his leg and said that even with his demanding workouts, his damaged leg is still not as strong. Still, he said he’s almost ready to get back into racing.

Renting a jump house

A typical jump house can cost between $80 and $110 to rent, but a specialized one, like the mechanical bull bounce house, can run up to $1,100 an hour.

Contact these companies to rent a jump house:

Garlic City Jumps

(408) 842-0020

The Bounce Company

(831) 636-5522

Jump and Giggle Inflatables (831) 635-9700

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