Inside the latest bounce house boom and how indoor play spaces hope to make a comeback

WAKE FOREST N.C. (WTVD) -- Bounce houses are having a moment and people in the business of inflatable rentals are hoping it lasts.

Business is booming for Wake Forest-based Bounce House Party Rentals and that's not just hot air.

Xavier Parrott, who launched his company in 2013 renting out the sole bounce house he owned to neighbors and strangers on Craigslist, is enjoying a 300-percent year-over-year increase in sales.

He now has 50 inflatable units stored in a large warehouse-- everything from massive water slides with names like "Purple Crush" to obstacle courses-that are being reserved three to four weeks in advance.

Business came to a halt at the start of the pandemic, but Parrott said it wound up being only a brief interruption.

"It was surprising," Parrott said. "I was nervous that I might lose everything when the pandemic first hit, but I just started getting calls after calls after calls- it just hit all at once."

FULL CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE

In all of 2020, Parrott ended up booking about 730 parties or events while already, in May of 2021, he's booked 400.

"2020 ended up being our best year," Parrott said. "It's kind of mind blowing. I see some people that I'm real good friends with, they're going through struggles and stuff with their businesses."

Indoor play spaces, meantime, are among those struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The owner of Greystone Recreation Center in Raleigh told ABC11 he is struggling to get customers back in the door.

At Little Doodles Play Café off Glenwood Avenue, owner Jaime Adams is hoping to see more families return soon.

"The past couple months we've done OK, but we're just getting by to surviving," she said.

Little Doodles caters to both children and their parents; moms and dads can grab a table and enjoy some coffee while their little ones romp around the play space, get creative with arts and crafts and do story time.

"We grew really quickly," Adams said. "And then the pandemic kind of changed everything."

Pre-pandemic, Adams' business was thriving so much that she moved and expanded in a new location, but after opening in March of 2020, she abruptly had to close, canceling dozens of birthday parties that had booked through July.

Summer camps and additional retail items have helped offset some of the slower months, but Adams is hoping more families will opt to escape the summer heat for a gathering inside the play café.

While staff are still wearing face masks, vaccinated customers do not have to. Hand sanitizing stations are scattered throughout and staff are rotating toys multiple times day in order to sanitize more frequently than pre-pandemic.

"We're just doing our very best to keep everybody as safe as possible," she said. "Staff will always have masks on regardless of our vaccination status just to try to make sure we're not exposing anyone to anything."

Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.