Bounce baron jumping for joy

The ability to bounce from one location to another is a definite asset for the understated part-owner of the latest Melbourne hot-spot, the trampoline heaven called Bounce.

That’s because Antony Morell, while handling the rush at the three-month-old Bounce, also co-owns Spudbar with a network of 12 food outlets across Melbourne and Western Australia, Hobba Eatery & Bar in Prahran, and a software business in the city, and is father to a one-year-old and a four-year-old.

‘‘We think everyone wants to jump around like a five-year-old bouncing on their parents’ bed. This is like a giant version of a parents’ bed,’’ Morell says as we look down from the upstairs cafe of Bounce at the bodies leaping in time to the highly charged music that fills the cavernous space, formerly a computer factory. ‘‘It’s an adrenalin rush with a soft landing. Look, everybody is smiling or laughing.’’

Bounce, near Tooronga station in Glen Iris, is a hit with all ages for its 100 interconnected trampolines, two dodgeball courts, free-jumping arena, a performance area and 500 square metres of foam pits to leap into with abandon.

Mt Buller’s Team Buller Riders practise their tricks and flips here, there’s a mini-Bounce program for three to five-year-olds, and it teems with school groups and kids’ parties.

Recently it hosted movie nights for its ski-lovers. Jeremy Jones’ Further, a snowboarding adventure with the maxim ‘‘you always grow if there are new challenges for you’’, is screening this particular night in the grassy central space of Bounce.

‘‘We look at marketplaces that have a gap and aim to provide something that elevates the spirit in some way or gives the customer goosebumps,’’ says Morell, who is undoubtedly thinking of expanding Bounce because of its power to attract crowds from all areas of Melbourne.

‘‘It’s mainly about imagination, either about doing something new like Bounce because it’s exciting for its newness, or doing something old in a better way.’’

The something old is the Spudbar network, which Morell, 40, and his partner in most business ventures, Simon McNamara, bought three years ago as ‘‘an uninspiring, largely vegetarian place’’ and ‘‘re-imagined it from the ground up’’.

‘‘Franchise doesn’t have to mean same same boring, and fast food does not need to mean junk food,’’ he declares.

He brought in Circa and Pope Joan chef Matt Wilkinson as an equity partner to redo the menu and make it a healthy foodie-style fast-food outlet. ‘‘We think really great-tasting real food at cheap-eat prices is what a lot of people want – fast, fresh, filling and delicious.’’

Morell’s eateries are as successful as the fully Australian Bounce, which enjoys sold-out sessions most days.

Birthday parties, of which there have already been hundreds, are booked well into next year

There’s a cap of 120 people per hour to maximise safety and enjoyment – that would make it more than 1500 bouncers on a Saturday alone.

Morell, hailed by his Bounce staff whom I spoke to as ‘‘so inspiring’’, with ‘‘great energy’’ and who ‘‘can make anything awesome’’, was in the US looking at a similar model with one of the Sydney-based partners when the team locked onto a bold vision for Bounce.

It combines circus and elite sports training methods with ideas borrowed from other fun pastimes such as skate parks and jumping castles to provide an uplifting experience for any age.

On the walls and staff  T-shirts are catchy phrases, concocted by Morell, such as ‘‘The harder you fall the higher you bounce’’.

The fringe benefits from jumping on trampolines are cardiovascular fitness, improved bone density, muscle toning and stress relief, among others.

‘‘We hear from lots of parents and schools that there’s not enough jumping around and climbing trees and going out on a limb for young people these days,’’ says Morell, who enjoyed a tree-climbing childhood in Melbourne and at his grandparents’ farm in Echuca, where he also rode horses, leapt into the river and fished for yabbies.

His father ran a PR company, and ‘‘mum created an amazing environment for us to grow up in’’.

Morell’s life of adventure now includes similar rough-and-tumble at the small farm he has in the Otways, and he is a passionate skier who uses Bounce time to tone his muscles and work on the spatial awareness he needs on the slopes.

‘‘The places I create end up looking like my house or my farm, or a combination of the two. They are warm, and have a bit of soul to them,’’ he says. ‘‘I love creating environments that make people excited about coming out.’’

He answers his ringing phone at this point, declares he has to race off to Hobba, and takes off with a high-five and “see you there’’. 

It’s the launch of dinners after a year of establishing Hobba as a breakfast and lunch institution at the softly lit, rustic warehouse in Malvern Road.

Morell trained in marketing and commerce and worked at a UK bank for a while, then was involved in property and construction, marketing and strategy consulting. The hard yards have paid off – he now creates his own thing using the soulful, relaxed aesthetic he loves.

He has woken up early with his son and daughter today, about 5.30am, to fit it all in, including lessons from one of his young circus staff in running up the Wall at Bounce. ‘‘Now I’m hosting my family for dinner,’’ says Morell, the second eldest of four children in the Morell family, as his younger sister Belinda walks in, in shiny silver-sequined top, to celebrate with her brother at Hobba. ‘‘Oh, I love him,’’ she says.

So does the rest of Melbourne, it seems, for putting a spring in everyone’s step.

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