Owner of Chouchou Bebe Warrawong Leon Oh says the community’s response to the new indoor play centre has exceeded expectations, which bodes well given he is committed to opening two more in the Illawarra by March next year.
If things continue the way they are, the Warrawong Plaza outlet will soon be joined by Wollongong Central and Stocklands Shellharbour counterparts, vindicating an informed decision to branch out of Sydney with his popular brand of pastel playlands.
While there are Chouchous in Blacktown, Auburn, Fairfield and Merrylands, Warrawong was Leon’s first foray into regional shopping centres.
“Sydney was a very safe bet but going regional was unchartered territory. This was an experiment to see if what we suspected was true – that the concept would resonate with this audience,” he says.
“Data for this region shows a lot of growth in terms of young families, and we know from what’s happening in Sydney that every shopping centre needs one of these places,” he added.
“We were also looking for a region that could facilitate multiple shops opening up in quick succession, and found that while the Illawarra had great indoor play options in its industrial areas – like trampoline parks – it was very under-serviced when it came to this sort of attraction.
“The concept has a focus on safe, novel, fun places where children can engage in active play, but that’s also conveniently placed and set up for parents, and with a high standards of hygiene.”
From a play perspective, Chouchou Warrawong is split into roughly two sections.
The first is the upper area suitable for infants and toddlers, which contains the ball pit, jumping castle and a raised platform with blocks and toys for soft play. The ball pit includes vacuum suction and air-blowing features so kids can interact with the balls, and an interactive wall with a motion sensor and projector loaded up with a variety of activities and games.
The lower section is suitable for kids from pre-kindy age up to about eight years old, with a soft play jungle gym, slides, trampolines and activities such as a magnetic fishing game to encourage fine motor skill development. Down the track, other features such as a dress-up section may be introduced.
The facilities also include function rooms for events and a cafe with a full Aussie-Asian fusion menu. On Thursdays to Saturdays when open late, the a la carte menu switches to buffet-style all-you-can-eat.
The Chouchou brand was born over two decades ago in response to what Leon saw as a major deficit in indoor play options for young children compared to his native South Korea.
“Where I am from there are so many entertainment options for young families, and you generally find indoor play centres in every shopping centre,” he says.
“I was surprised when I moved here to find it wasn’t really a thing. For obvious reasons, Australia offers a lot in the way of outdoor entertainment, particularly in places like the Illawarra, but I’m a parent myself and I know that’s not always what you need.
“As a dad, on the weekend when my wife needs a break and I’ve got to take the kids somewhere, I would always take them to these kinds of places. You’re in a gated area so it’s an opportunity to sit down, sip a coffee and eat some food in peace knowing your kids are in a safe and fun environment.”
For more information visit Chouchou Bebe Warrawong.