Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Kidville Settles in the 'Burbs

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Kidville Settles in the 'Burbs

Article excerpt

Michael Pickholz has 20 years of experience working on mergers and acquisitions and venture-capital deals. Now he's switching from high finance to little kids and betting that a children's educational and play facility born on Manhattan's Upper East Side also will be a hit in northwest Bergen County.

Pickholz and his wife, Jessica, are opening a Ridgewood branch of the Manhattan-based franchise chain Kidville on Saturday. It will be the sixth Kidville in New Jersey and the second in Bergen County. An Englewood location opened in 2012.

Kidville centers, which offer developmental early childhood classes in art, music and gymnastics, as well as an indoor play space and birthday party services, have won raves from Manhattan moms and dads, and the Hoboken Kidville classes tend to sell out. However, their success in suburbia is less of a sure thing.

A Kidville franchise in downtown Westfield in Union County that opened in mid-2013 closed this week, with the owners saying the business was not bringing in enough money to balance the high operating costs.

Kidville is competing against similar play space and activity chains, such as The Little Gym, which has three locations in Bergen County, as well as with long-standing enrichment programs at YMCAs and Jewish community centers.

Michael and Jessica Pickholz, however, are confident Kidville is just what parents in Ridgewood and surrounding towns have been looking for.

"This is Kidville," Michael Pickholz said, gesturing toward downtown Ridgewood from his new 6,600-square-foot Kidville location in the landmark post office building on Oak Street. "I can't think of a business that more accurately fits the north Bergen County area and what it's about than a Kidville."

Kidville was founded 11 years ago by a group of high-powered New York parents looking for better enrichment and play activities for their toddlers and infants.

The company's board includes such heavy-hitters as Laurie Tisch of the Tisch family that co-owns the New York Giants; Emanuel Stern of the Hartz real estate development family; and tennis legends Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, who invested in the venture after their children fell in love with Kidville while the family was in New York for the U.S. Open.

Five years ago, the chain began expanding through franchises. There are more than 30 Kidville locations around the United States as well as exotic locations such as Dubai.

Many of its franchisees are parents who brought their children to the Manhattan Kidville sites before moving to the suburbs or other states, where they decided to open Kidville centers in their new hometowns.

Michael and Jessica Pickholz, former New Yorkers who moved to Ridgewood 2 1/2 years ago, enrolled their oldest daughter in the first classes offered at the flagship Kidville in Manhattan. …

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