Chipmunks Playland & Café celebrates 25 years in the playground industry
It’s true what they say; time flies when you’re having fun! From humble beginnings in little old New Zealand, our success story began more than 25 years ago.
It all started in 1994 when company Founder Lance Spence noticed a gap in the children’s entertainment market. He then dedicated his time to building a safe, fun indoor playland company that his children would want to attend. A year and a half months later the first Chipmunks was launched in Christchurch, bringing his concept to life. What started as one store quickly grew into 30+ stores across Australasia, as well as a Master Franchise in Indonesia.
“For me, Chipmunks has always been about the kids. It’s humbling to hear stories of customers who grew up at the early beginnings of Chipmunks. Those customers are now bringing their children to Chipmunks. The last 25 years wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our customers who have helped shape Chipmunks into what it is today.” – Founder, Lance Spence
Explore our Chipmunks journey
1996 – Our first Chipmunks was launched
The first Chipmunks Playland & Café was launched in Christchurch, owned and operated by Co-Founder’s Lance and Kerri Spence for 3 years. Just like any growing business, Lance and Kerri faced a range of challenges, which through hard work they overcame, all the while developing and refining the Chipmunks’ model.
1999 – Officially a Franchise
It wasn’t long before a second location opened in Dunedin, New Zealand. The indoor playground was a huge hit among local Dunedin residents. The store hosted generations of children’s birthday parties. Chipmunks Playland & Café Dunedin celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2019. Chipmunks continued to grow with the third store launched in Nelson, and a fourth in Invercargill soon after.
2001 – Continuous Growth across New Zealand
The grand Northern Expansion kicked off with three stores – Manukau, Whanganui, and Whangarei.
Over the course of the following three years, Chipmunks successfully launched 12 franchises. By 2004, Chipmunks Playland & Café could be found throughout the North and South Island of Aotearoa – New Zealand.
As stores kept popping up, Charlie – Chipmunks charming mascot – was quickly becoming a well known character amongst families throughout the country. However, to ensure Charlie would continue to remain in the spotlight a design makeover was required! Chipmunks updated their mascot Charlie to be more iconic, cheerful and vibrant to evoke a sense of fun.
2006 – 2008 – Laying the foundation
Having successfully grown the business throughout New Zealand, Chipmunks set its sights overseas, and began developing strong relationships throughout Australasia and several Southern Asian countries. Lance and the Chipmunks team visited many manufacturing sites throughout China, establishing and enhancing multiple lines of communication. The operations team attended various kids’ entertainment expos across the globe over the next few years, with the goal of gaining as much knowledge as possible of their demographic to ensure any future Chipmunks were a success.
2008 – First International Expansion
Chipmunks launched its first Playland in Australia with the premier North Lakes store in Brisbane, Queensland. This indoor playground design was uniquely based on the lessons and insights learnt from attending various international kids entertainment expos to maximise the enormous 1000 sqm site. This was just the beginning of many more stores that would open soon after all across Australia.
2012 – First Master Franchise
In 2012, we signed our first Master Franchise to launch and develop Chipmunks Playland & Café in the Indonesian market. Our lovely Indonesian customers welcomed the Chipmunks brand with open arms, and over the next five years our presence skyrocketed to 10 more stores throughout Indonesia!
2012 – 2018 Building Formidable Business Relationship
The focus for the next few years was to look for opportunities in new and exclusive territories across New Zealand and Australia. Lance along with the Chipmunks team travelled to Australia and Indonesia regularly over this period to visit existing Chipmunks Franchise Partners, continuously refining the Chipmunks model. These scheduled trips also helped strengthen the relationship with local suppliers and manufacturers.
2019 – Chipmunks Largest Franchise Yet!
A little over two decades after Chipmunk’s inception the largest flagship store was launched in MacGregor, Brisbane. It was a tremendous achievement for our Franchise Partner, Sasha, who previously successfully ran the Chipmunks Robina franchise.
2020 – Investing and Revamping the brand
During the pandemic, while many people only saw a crisis, we found the silver lining and seized on the opportunity to analyse our entire business model from the ground up. With thoughtful planning, research and countless hours on Zoom calls, we were able to refine our operations and brand for our Franchise Partners.
2021 – Quarter of a Century!
Chipmunks celebrates 25 years of fun! It’s been a journey but we are excited to see where Chipmunks will go in the next 25 years.
Where to next?
Our mission is to be at the global forefront of kids’ indoor playground entertainment. We want to continue to provide families with a safe, fun environment that will stand out from the competition.
Chipmunks has several stores planned throughout Australia and New Zealand; from there, we will set our sights on the United States.
If you are interested in being part of Chipmunk’s next chapter as an international brand – we’d love to hear from you. Fill out the form below, and we will get the conversation started.