Coronavirus: Popular Regina kids’ play place Dino Bouncers goes out of business

Popular Regina children's play place, Dino Bouncers, announced Sunday night that it was permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic. Dino Bouncers / Facebook

For their young grandchildren, the families that came weekend after weekend and the families that were just discovering their Dino Bouncers business, Darwin and Sandy Holfeld wanted to keep it going.

“Our hearts are ripped up,” Darwin Holfeld told Global News in an emotional interview Monday, one day after making the announcement that the popular inflatable play place would be closing permanently.

“We didn’t see the end of the tunnel. Now with COVID numbers moving up,” he said. “When you do you kind of just say enough’s enough? This, I guess, was the time”

“The numbers just aren’t coming in… We just aren’t going to make rent at this rate.”

When the Holfelds’ neighbour was selling off her clowning business 19 years ago, the couple jumped at the opportunity to purchase her four blow-up bouncers.

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From their garage while working day jobs, they launched what would grow into one of the city’s most well-known indoor attractions for young children.

Their own children and  a niece and a nephew helped became invested early on, helping them drive the bouncers around and set them up at weekend events.

“It snowballed,”  said Holfeld, thinking back to Dino Bouncers’ humble beginnings.

In 2009, with demand continuing to grown, they decide it was time to find a home base.

It was difficult to get realtors and the banks on board with the concept, Holfeld said.

“We kind of did it on our own,” he said.

In an emotional interview Global News Monday, Darwin Holfeld shares what it was like running Dino Bouncers with his wife, Sandy Holfeld, for the past 19 years. Adrian Raaber / Global News

In 2010, after some renovating, Dino Bouncers opened at 1305 Park Street.

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The Holfelds, working long hours seven days a week, employed their own kids, kids’ cousins and friends’ kids.

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Eventually, Holfeld said he hired one of the play place’s first regular customers,

“It was kind of rewarding to see that happen,” he said.

“We were moving along really good.”

Read more: Saskatchewan businesses continue to struggle amid pandemic pressure

About a year ago, the Holfelds renewed their lease.

They planned to stick around another five years and then pass the business along to their daughter and nephew, who grew up with it.

“That was kind of our vision, but it came to a halt as of March 2020,” Holfeld said.

During the summer, they went back to the old days of outdoor bouncers.

“That helped us through the months that we were closed to make some payments,” Holfeld said.

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They anticipated opening up slowly and even took a stab at it.

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“We spent some time in there cleaning up the place and paining and waxing floors and cleaning the rugs,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a slow open and people would hear we’re open and hopefully would come.”

With protocols in place and following the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s guidelines aimed at curbing the transmission of the novel coronavirus, the Holfelds were finally able to reopen Dino Bouncers at start of the school year.

But business has just been too slow to sustain.

“I think people are just a little scared to come out,” Holfeld said.

Read more: Small businesses that survive coronavirus have difficult recovery ahead, experts say

He said making the decision to close was difficult.

“I love the people, the kids,” Holfeld said, his voice cracking.

“All the well wishes we’re getting from people, all the families that came through the building, we’re going to miss that I will. All my staff, great staff, young people that we tried to mentor…

“Its tough. It’s really tough.”

Holfeld recognizes the outpour of support the couple has already received since announcing the closure to be a testament to the business they ran.

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They plan to stay in Regina, a community they’ve called home for the past 35 years.

Aside from trying to “get through this month,” he said they have no plans.

“We’ll be good. We’ll move on,” Holfeld said.

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