BANGOR, Maine — Barring a large uptick in business to finish the month, The Maine Jump will close its doors Nov. 1, according to owner Ryan Hatch, who attributes the potential shutdown to a nosedive in attendance this fall and poor management decisions.
Maine Jump is an inflatable play place, featuring slides, climbing walls, obstacle courses and other amusements geared toward children 12 and younger. There is a location in Presque Isle in addition to the business on Hogan Road. It also rents out inflatable slides, obstacle courses and other amusements to parties and events.
The announcement comes on the heels of a major investment over the summer, when Hatch pumped nearly $200,000 into new equipment and security upgrades. At the time, Hatch said, he believed the company had the cash to invest and was even looking at expanding into other states.
Three months after completing his large-scale renovation in July, Hatch said Friday that badly timed sparse attendance in September and October has forced him to consider a shutdown.
Hatch said his business relies heavily on inclement weather. If it’s nice out, people tend to want to take their kids to play outside rather than bring them to an indoor play place. Maine Jump does most of its business in the winter months.
September is normally slow because the weather is neither too hot nor too cold for kids to be outside, Hatch said. However, this year, the company brought in 87 percent less revenue than it had in previous Septembers.
October, normally a “recovery month” that brings in cash to cover for September, has been even worse, with revenue more than 90 percent below what was budgeted for, according to Hatch.
“It was like a light switch shut off, and people weren’t coming through the doors,” Hatch said.
Hatch doesn’t know how to explain the collapse in turnout, but attributed some of it to warm fall weather, a sluggish economy, heating oil prices, and perhaps families’ needs to save up and avoid nonessential expenses.
Hatch said he first noticed the decreasing cash flow about six weeks ago.
Hatch said his company also “overextended” itself in terms of charitable giving during the past year, making about $264,000 worth of donations, ranging from free passes and equipment rentals to giving money to causes.
In hindsight, Hatch said, he would have done things differently. He might have spent half the money on upgrades this summer or scaled back how much he donated. The company also has about $250,000 worth of debt.
“Come Nov. 1, we might have to close our doors,” Hatch said, adding that there is a chance the business could stay open, but only if it sees a significant uptick in traffic. Hatch declined to say how many people or how much revenue he would need, but did say the numbers were “achievable.”
The company has 30 employees and an after-school program that gives about 40 children a place to play until their parents can pick them up. Those parents would have to make new arrangements.
Hatch had taken out papers in hopes of running for Bangor City Council this November, but announced in August that he was stepping out of the race because he was planning to open new branches in Vermont, New York, Florida and Texas over the next 18 months. Those would have joined the pair of existing locations in Bangor and Presque Isle, but that plan has died. The Presque Isle facility opened more than a year ago, but has not performed well, he said.
He purchased the facility in September 2011, about three weeks after The Maine Jump’s previous owners closed shop.
If the business were to shutter, Hatch said he would consider selling the company or auctioning off what it owns to pay off debts.
“I’m the captain of this ship,” Hatch said in an interview at Maine Jump. “Have things been mismanaged in terms of giving and investment in the renovation project?” In hindsight, he said, probably.
“I didn’t know it would be exacerbated so quickly,” he added.