By Erica Schroeder
When a Solana Beach couple heard that Gymboree - a parent-child interactive center on Lomas Santa Fe - suddenly announced plans to close, they decided to step in and preserve the business they enjoyed by buying it themselves.
Caitlin and Eric Pannese frequented Gymboree's classes with their 18-month-old son. Caitlin said they enjoyed the interactive family environment and were dismayed when they heard it was suddenly going out of business.
"I got a call at least, right before they were going to close. Most customers didn't even receive that," she said.
The former management team was unable to continue the business because of financial issues and was forced to close unexpectedly, Caitlin was told.
The Panneses' dismay turned to optimism when they saw the news as an opportunity to fulfill a lifetime goal. "My husband has always wanted to own his own business. I saw the value as a customer myself," Caitlin said.
Caitlin and Eric bought the business from Gymboree's corporate office shortly after it closed and spent a few weeks renovating before reopening last month. Eric did most of the remodeling himself and spent many late nights making sure all the proper steps were taken in order to reopen on the promised date - May 19.
The Panneses have quickly learned that owning their own business has its ups and downs.
"The challenging parts are the good parts," Caitlin said. "I think the whole process to get open was the biggest challenge. Getting through Gymboree's training program, getting everything we needed lined up (lease, insurance, utilities, etc.), pre-opening marketing, renovations, hiring staff, etc.," she said. Despite the challenges, the couple remain positive.
"Just getting opened was the hardest part," Caitlin said. She said they wanted to make sure everything was perfect before unveiling the changes they had made.
Plans for the future include adding a new program called "School Skills" for children ages 3 to 5. The program would prepare children for kindergarten and ensure preschool readiness. The business is also adjusting the class schedules to accommodate parents' timetables.
Gymboree, at 971 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach, offers three types of classes for children ages 0 to 5 and their parents: play and learn classes, music classes and art classes. It also offers one free preview class for prospective customers, so parents can experience Gymboree before making a commitment. For information, visit