When Jackie Lesh moved to Colorado Springs two years ago, she was looking for a career that would allow her to spend a lot of time with her family. As a former teacher at a Gymboree Play and Music gym in the Los Angeles area, Lesh considered jumping into the teaching arena again.
She enrolled her 2-year old daughter in the local Gymboree Play and Music, only to watch that location at Vickers and Academy close last December.
Lesh then decided that she would purchase the franchise rights from the owners and open her own location.
“It’s taken me a year to get it up and running,” she said. “It took a while to get the space remodeled and gain all of the different approvals and whatnot.”
Lesh, along with a silent partner, her father Douglas Martig, opened the 4,500-square-foot Gymboree Play and Music at the Promenade Shops at Briargate on Nov. 16.
Not to be confused with the Gymboree clothing store, also housed in Colorado Springs at the Promenade Shops at Briargate, Gymboree Play and Music is a children’s activity center. It is designed for children from infants to 5.
“We host classes for play, music and art,” Lesh said. “Experts designed our equipment, our lesson plans and all of our activities to help develop children’s cognitive, physical and social skills.”
The activity center offers parent-involved classes, in which parents participate and help with their child’s development, and drop-off classes (for children 3 to 5 years old).
“One of our typical classes is our play class, where the kids work with parachutes and bubbles,” Lesh said. “They sing songs and the teacher leads the class through activities. They’ll work on whatever developmental skill that age range child is currently working on. Examples would be: hand-eye coordination, leg strengthening for those learning to walk, gross motor skills and social interaction.”
The center’s music classes introduce kids to rhythms, movements and instruments, while its art classes stimulate imagination and self expression.
Gymboree Play and Music is much like a traditional gym membership. Lesh said the company has a month-by-month enrollment arrangement and parents can try a class with their child before deciding to sign up.
Business has been fairly good. Lesh signed up 50 customers during the first two weeks and said another 30 are scheduled for a trial during the next month.
Lesh chose the Promenade Shops because she wanted to be in a newer, growing part of town.
“There’s a lot of development going on here,” she said. “This is a family- and community-oriented part of town. Plus, this shopping center is close to the freeway, so people can access it from anywhere.”
Still, Lesh understands that she’s taking a significant risk by starting a business during a time when consumers are cutting back on discretionary spending.
“It’s definitely tough,” she said. “Probably tougher than it would have been if I’d have opened a few years ago, but at the same time I feel there is a need in the community to have a family friendly educational place where you can take your little one that’s sanitary and fun, somewhere you can go when it’s either cold or really hot out, and have a good time.”
Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.