Monkey Joe's 'play-place' opens in Morrow

Laughing, playing, bouncing, sliding and eating. Those were a few of the actions children involved themselves in Thursday, during a private VIP event, at the new Monkey Joe's, a children's play-place in Morrow.

Persons involved in the Monkey Joe's project, such as contractors and vendors, and their family and friends, attended the event, at 1395 Southlake Parkway.

Children up to the age of 12, can enjoy Monkey Joe's, which operates Mondays, through Thursdays, from 10 a.m., to 8 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, until 9 p.m.; and Sundays, from 11 a.m., to 6 p.m., according to Monkey Joe's web site, www.monkeyjoes.com.

The facility will have its grand opening on Saturday, Aug. 7, at 10 a.m.

Tonya Blanks, co-owner of the Monkey Joe's Morrow location, said she owns the facility with her husband, and four other individuals. The six owners are part of the Cliftondale Group, an investment group. In addition, the co-owners live within a four-block radius of each other, in Cliftondale, a community in South Fulton County, she added.

"We actually, the six of us ... live in South Fulton, and we personally just recognized the need for something for children on this side of town [Clayton County]," Blanks said.

"And I mean, after searching and just searching, we decided to come to Morrow, just because of where it is," said Blanks. "You have the mall right here."

After sliding down a long inflatable slide, and screaming at the top of her lungs, 11-year-old Janee Johnson, of Stockbridge, said the slide is her favorite inflatable maze at Monkey Joe's.

"We [family and friends] could probably go here more," said Johnson, of how conveniently close Monkey Joe's is to her home. "I like the big slide ... It is fun," added 5-year-old Alexis Amey, while nearly out of breath.

Jennifer Johnson, of Stockbridge , said she is glad there is a Monkey Joe's in Clayton County, because it serves as a place where her 3-year-old daughter can exhaust her energy. She said facilities like Monkey Joe's are usually located on the north end of metro Atlanta.

Co-owner Blanks added, "We just recognized a need, because there was not too much on the Southside, and when we found the place, we knew it was perfect."

Blanks said the 20,000-square-foot Monkey Joe's is the largest in the franchise, with nine Inflatables, two parent areas and an arcade. Blanks said businesses, such as Monkey Joe's, are often not found in counties like Clayton, because people feel it may be an economic risk to invest south of Atlanta.

"I don't know why people ... have this impression that the Southside is economically depressed ..." said Blanks. "We have a lot of families here. We have a lot of economic base, and there is money here on the Southside."

Blanks said she believes the approximately $300,000 that was invested in the Monkey Joe's project will pay off, partly because the facility is in front of Southlake Mall and near Jonesboro Road, which is a high-traffic area.

In addition, Blanks said Monkey Joe's has already reached out to the Clayton County community.

She said the inflatable play-place will offer support to Rainbow House, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides temporary housing to children that have been referred to the Department of Family and Children Services; the Department of Juvenile Justice; and the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Monkey Joe's plans to donate a portion of the proceeds from the grand opening event to the non-profit organization, Blanks said. "Safety and community involvement ... [are] very important to us," explained Blanks, in a prepared statement. "Monkey Joe's offers us the opportunity to accelerate our commitment to the local community."

Lawanda Calhoun, building department permits administrator for the City of Morrow, said she believes Monkey Joe's will be a successful business in the community. "They are already booked with parties, and bringing together a lot of the [surrounding] business owners," said Calhoun.