Jungle Java franchise near Ann Arbor closed after lawsuit over loan default
The Ann Arbor area franchise of Jungle Java, a play cafe for kids and their parents, abruptly closed its doors in late April in the wake of a lawsuit charging that the owners defaulted on a business loan.
Laura Blodgett | For AnnArbor.com
Denver-based Native American Bank on March 14 filed a lawsuit in Washtenaw County Circuit Court against Jungle Java of Ann Arbor and franchise owners Eric Yelsma and Denise Yelsma, alleging that the business defaulted on an Oct. 25, 2006 loan agreement.
The original loan was for $500,000 plus interest, and the suit alleges the defendants still owe more than $349,000.
The bank is represented by local attorney William Tishkoff, who did not respond to a request for comment.
Eric Yelsma, who now owns Mocha Mountain, also did not respond to requests seeking comment, and Denise Yelsma was not available.
The corporate office of Jungle Java, which is based in Canton, last week sent an email to customers saying that its Ann Arbor location "has gone out of business and is no longer in operation."
The email indicated that "any passes, coupons, party deposits or any other JJ items of that nature may be redeemed at any other Jungle Java location."
The move comes after Jungle Java launched a new, 14,800-square-foot location in Clinton Township in March. The company plans to continue to operate its stores in Canton, Farmington Hills and Clinton Township.
The company, founded in 2002 by Denise Mehl, gives parents a place to have coffee and chat with other parents while their children have fun in the play place. Mehl could not be reached for comment.
Doug Conlin, general manager of Mocha Mountain, said the new cafe opened May 1. Conlin said the new cafe is maintaining Jungle Java's basic treehouse play structure and will slowly transition to a mountain theme, which will be reflected in the names of the food items and other decor.
“We realize competition is tight and moms and dads can go to a play center like McDonald's,” he said. “So our focus is making it clean and fun and having healthy snacks. We want to continue having a really nice play center and improve upon it.”
Some of those improvements include making small changes to the menu, such as replacing jumbo muffins with two-bite muffins.
“When kids are begging for a muffin, this is a better size for them and less expensive for parents,” Conlin said.
AnnArbor.com reporter Lee Higgins and freelancer reporter Laura Blodgett contributed to this story.