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The business of birthdays

A good time is had by all - and no frosting on the carpet

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2002

When Minerva and Domingo Munoz decided to invite 20 of their daughter Sabrina's friends to celebrate her 10th birthday two weeks ago, they chose to hold it at Bullwinkle's.

"It's so much easier for me," said Minerva Munoz, a mother of three who works two jobs - as a customer service representative for Cellular One and in sales at Fred Meyer.

"This is the second year we have had it (at Bullwinkle's)," Munoz said. "Sabrina likes to play the video games, so it was her choice."

Bullwinkle's Pizza Parlors is one of several Juneau businesses that offer birthday parties as a sideline. A number of restaurants, fitness centers and other businesses host parties, helping two-working-parent families and others skip the planning, baking, shopping, set-up and clean-up parties require.

Bullwinkle's offers theme parties at both its locations. The birthday coordinator is Melissa McCormick of Creativation.

"I have 150 themes in stock for customers to choose from," McCormick said.

Themes range from Pokemon to dinosaurs to Winnie the Pooh, Extreme Sports, pirates, Thomas the Tank Engine and Power Puff Girls. Particularly popular just now are Monsters Inc. and Harry Potter, she said. She coordinates five to eight theme parties a month, with the themes expressed in plates, cups, napkins, tablecloths and decorations.

"People like the parties because they're easy," McCormick said. "I'm there to serve everything and clean up." She has many repeat customers, "especially in families where there is more than one child."

The "Rocky" party serves up to 10 people. It includes a 19-inch single-topping pizza and a 15-inch single-topping pizza, plus fresh popcorn, soda, a custom birthday cake and ice cream, party favors, a special gift for the birthday child and party photos. Price is $139.

The "Bullwinkle" accommodates up to 20 people and has the same components as the Rocky. Price is $199, with a charge of $6.99 for each additional guest. To arrange for a party, fill out the form available at Bullwinkle's, call McCormick at 790-3949 or e-mail her at creativation@ak.net.

Beth Landvatter, director of the Southeast Alaska Gymnastics Academy, has offered birthday packages for nine years.

"We do an average of five a weekend, and have been so busy sometimes that I have to squeak in an all-nighter," she said.

Landvatter believes parties at public facilities are popular for reasons of inclusion.

"Parents tend in this day and age not to leave anyone out," she said. "They want to invite everyone in the class, and classes are huge, and there's no room in their living room and the weather is not conducive to holding things in the park as my parents used to do."

The academy's base rate is $85 for two hours. This buys exclusive use of the facilities for 20 people. The gym features balance beams, trampolines, a tumbling floor and volleyball nets, plus a supervisor. Refreshments are not included. Parties may be scheduled for Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays. Call 789-7440 for details and reservations.

Activities that ground youthful energies are the hallmark of parties at the Juneau Racquet Club, where partygivers can request sports such as racquetball, basketball, tennis, badminton, squash and Wallyball - or games such as tag, Doctor Dodgeball, scooterball and others.

The party package includes a party planner, all equipment and court rentals, and disposable serving materials such as plates, napkins and utensils.

The racquet club began offering parties in December, and hosted 10 in its first month, said coordinator Russ Stevens.

"Parents bring cake, ice cream and drinks, and we supply all the other things," Stevens said. A one-hour party is $82; two hours, $143. Call Stevens at JRC/Valley, 789-2181, for available times and dates.

A climbing wall is one of the attractions of holding a party at the Zach Gordon Youth Center, 396 Whittier St. Parties are limited to Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. and to youths ages 5 to 12.

A full-service party includes decorations, cake, ice cream, punch and supervised games, or parents may rent the facility, bring their own refreshments - or order pizza from Bullwinkle's, said Kristi West, director. Zach Gordon is averaging parties on two Sundays a month.

Fees are $90 for one hour for one to eight guests; $110 for two hours for one to eight guests; or $110 for one hour for nine to 16 guests; $130 for two hours for nine to 16 guests; plus sales tax. An extra charge of $25 per hour is required for use of the climbing wall. For details, call the center weekdays after 11 a.m. at 586-2635.

Our Back Yard, a play facility for preschoolers and elementary-age children, began offering birthday parties in December.

"They have been going really well," said owner Kristi Elliott. "We already have parties scheduled in July."

A party during business hours costs $99 and includes balloons and two supervised games with prizes.

A private party gives the birthday child and guests exclusive use of the entire facility for two hours, and up to 30 guests may participate. Balloons, two games and prizes are included at $119.

"We recently added full-service packages, starting at $173, with 25 different themes (Scooby Doo, Batman, etc.) to choose among, plus cake, ice cream, juice, utensils and decorations," Elliott said. That package suits "busy people who just want to show up," she added. She advises booking two to four weeks in advance. Call 796-2007 for reservations.

The Rock Dump Indoor Climbing Gym offers party packages. The basic fee is $75, which covers up to 10 climbers and harnesses for two hours, said co-owner Ami Cecil. "We rope off the balcony area for serving cake or opening presents. If they need to reserve a staff member for belaying, there is an extra $25 charge."

For reservations at the Rock Dump, call 586-4982. A $50 deposit is required to confirm a particular date and time, Cecil said.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.



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