Rich Eitzel spent two years planning to open the doors to his ZavaZone franchise, an indoor adventure park, at Potomac Mills. But the real adventure was trying to open and sustain a unique new business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I went to a ZavaZone with my son in 2018 and I knew I wanted to open one,” says Eitzel. “After a career running my own insurance company, I was ready for a change. I wanted something that families could do together.”
ZavaZones are family entertainment centers that offer something for everyone. The concept is a multi-attraction indoor adventure park that allows families to have fun together and get in shape while doing it.
Rich settled on Potomac Mills for his franchise location after the AMC movie theater complex relocated to the front of the mall entrance, leaving an old location with more than 19,000 square feet of space—and the height—he needed. After cutting a hole into an external wall to allow dump trucks to enter, it took almost 20 truckloads to remove debris, gravel, and concrete from the old movie theaters for the remodel and redesign of the space.
What emerged is a family-friendly space for people of all ages to challenge themselves physically. Whether it’s a two-sided climbing wall where you can race a buddy to the top, a trampoline dodge ball court where teams can bounce around while aiming at their opponents, a giant inflatable area for jousting with an opponent, or a progressively more difficult series of Ninja Warrior challenges you can attempt on your own or with friends, ZavaZone brings out the adventurer in everyone.
“At ZavaZone, kids don’t hear the order ‘don’t run!’ We encourage them to move!” says Eitzel. “We are so much more than a trampoline park. There’s something here to challenge people from ages 5 to 105.”
The initial opening of ZavaZone was delayed due to the pandemic. Not only was the lockdown in place, but several of the construction crew members contracted COVID-19, so the delays continued. After finally opening in December 2020, things were tough until summer of 2021, when business was starting to pick up. Then the delta variant hit, followed by the omicron wave. Because of the constantly changing pandemic landscape, they had to continually revise their expectations of sales and memberships.
Jen Snitselaar, General Manager at Potomac Mills Mall was instrumental in working with Eitzel through the difficult times. The pressure of knowing that back rent would have to be paid back weighed heavily on Eitzel.
Snitselaar worked with the Prince William County Department of Economic Development (PWCDED) to evaluate the best course of action for the county's Restore Retail Grant, which has provided $6 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) relief monies to cushion the ongoing crunch felt by hotels, restaurants, event spaces, and storefront retail businesses.
Since launching the Restore Retail grant in December, PWCDED has helped 305 businesses with $4.58 million in grants awarded. With more than $1 million in funds remaining, eligible retailers should apply before funds are depleted.
"PWCDED’s innovative approach to growing small businesses makes them a great partner to work with,” says Snitselaar. “I started my first retail job over 25 years ago and have a great passion for the business. It is exciting to work with our retailers to watch them grow and evolve. Potomac Mills has always been supportive of our customers and retailer partners and has worked hard to welcome recent family-focused retailers like ZavaZone.”
You can book your ticket for a visit to ZavaZone in 1-hour, 90-minute, 2-hour, or 3-hour increments. You can also book Toddler Time or join a Dodgeball Tournament. Memberships to ZavaZone are also available, and members can have unlimited fun any time ZavaZone is open as well as discounts at the ZavaStore. They can also bring in friends and family members for a discount.
Safety is paramount at ZavaZone. Each of the 15 different attractions was designed to fit perfectly in the space and the mats and equipment are highly rated for safety and made in the USA. Visitors are harnessed for all the adventures taking place up high.
With their party rooms, they are a great place to host a birthday party. “We host the party, so you can go home with worn-out kids to a clean house,” says Eitzel. “Parents have as much fun here as the kids do. But what really makes us unique is how our staff members really have fun interacting with the kids.”
Eitzel and his team look forward to introducing more people to the adventures that await at ZavaZone.
“The Prince William County’s Office of Tourism gave us tremendous support when people were just not out and about when we opened,” says Eitzel. “They send us referrals, and we love seeing church, team-building, and scouting groups starting to come here. The homeschool community has also embraced us as a great place for physical education. We can accommodate very large groups—our capacity is 500 people.”
2700 Potomac Mills Circle, Woodbridge, VA 22192
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