By Roland Fleming
People all over the tri-cities are being trapped inside locked rooms, and paying for the experience. The business of breaking out is booming, and the latest to join the trend is Breakout Escapes in Cambridge. The husband and wife team of Shane and Andrea Cartwright opened the business just under a month ago.
An escape room is a game where customers pay to have themselves locked in a room and typically have 60 minutes to escape. To escape participants must use objects and clues in the room to solve a series of puzzles. Most escape rooms have a series of rooms. By solving the puzzles you find the key or method of entry into the following rooms until you escape or time runs out.
“You’re trapped in the matrix, you have to escape the agent … contact your team to get out,” said Shane. The room called Glitch in the System is a play on The Matrix. Both Shane and Andrea put their time, money and labour into creating the room. Both also work outside of the business, Shane as a full-time financial planner and Andrea in marketing, although she has been taking time off to devote to the business.
Andrea had previously worked at an escape room as an employee and they have also played about a dozen different rooms. Together they decided to pursue their passion for escape rooms and build their own. Breakout Escapes is the first such company to open in Cambridge. The current rate for successfully escaping their room has been about 20 to 25 per cent. Initially it had been much higher.
“Our success rate was a lot higher, probably about 40 per cent, (but) we had to make some changes,” said Shane.
“She’s the mastermind behind the actual game,” he said of his wife. Andrea took on most of the work of designing the puzzles while Shane took the bulk of the renovation work. Escape rooms are actually fairly inexpensive to run. The main cost is the initial renovation and build, after that the cost is mostly rent and utilities.
“The people we talked to before we decided to open one, they all said about $20,000 to $30,000 to build one properly,” said Shane. In order to get the space ready, he installed walls, doors and put in new flooring. Andrea went on the hunt for many of the props that are used in the room. Making this happen has really been a team effort for the couple. That effort is paying off.
“They’ve only been open two weeks and the responses seem to be overwhelming … you don’t see that too often in a new business,” said employee Laura Schiebel. The room has already seen approximately 30 teams go through. In fact, Shane said the first two weeks of business have already covered all their costs for the next month.
“We haven’t advertised very much … we actually haven’t had to.”
If business continues to increase the Cartwrights have plans to expand. There is more space in the building and they hope to build a second room in the near future.
The cost to play a game is $22 per individual or $20 a person for groups of five or more. The room holds a capacity of seven people and can be booked at breakoutescapes.ca.