June 2016-December 2016
Part 2 - growing bigger!
With three rooms under our belt, we started to see a lot more familiar faces! It was lovely to see customers coming back for more, brimming with excitement to try the latest games. But what to do? Our building was full! It was time for another upheaval!
Ask any sane person if it would be a good idea to rip out two experiences at the same time and then to rebuild another two in the space of a mere two weeks, and they would quite rightfully declare you a mad(wo)man. However, that was just what we did!
Bolstered by our ability to relocate a whole room over the span of 24 hours, we took the mad plunge to bring an end to both The Panic Room and The Witch House at the same time.
Once the last customers of the night had vacated the rooms, the furniture was quickly packed up and hauled out. We had new plans for the rooms lay out as well – Down came a wall! Wallpaper was stripped, with metal effect wallpaper turning into a gorgeous and opulent red damask. A hidden wall cavity was turned into a window, and a brick wall was soon turned gold. The Panic Room truly was no more, and the Don soon started to take shape.
Beside it, Urgency quickly started to take shape. Where the Don basked in excessive luxury, Urgency took on a much more humble and spartan look – the bomb defusal room was set in a garage like environment, with faux brick walls, cabinets, a workstation and even a functional electronic winch system.Mounting that little beastie was a whole puzzle of its own!
But time was running out fast. Time was ticking nearly as quickly as the timer of Urgency’s bomb! We had never done construction before and it quickly became apparent – we may not have given ourselves enough time! What to do? With bookings already on the system, we did what we’ve proven to do best – we knuckled down and worked even harder. A sleeping bag on the reception couch soon became “home” for the nights, as we worked all hours to ensure the room was play ready. Who needs sleep anyway?
We gracelessly stumbled and jumped each hurdle that came our way, shedding blood, sweat and tears until the early morning hours (quite literally!), until finally, the final pieces fell in place. The rooms were ready! And not a moment too soon! The last tool was barely cleared away before the first teams lined up for yet another, sold out weekend. We made it!
One of the things that was most amazing about that opening weekend was our friends and family rallying around us. My parents and some of our close friends brought food and drinks to keep us going while also helping to man the reception while we ran the games. This eased the strain on what was already a difficult weekend. We learned our lesson but we were stronger for it!
The dust had barely settled when the next opportunity reared its head. Only barely recovering from our mad-dash building, we were approached with an offer we could hardly refuse: were we interested in bringing our brand of escape rooms to a new location?
Barely a few months old, and still tottering like a toddler, our name was already spreading itself around the scenes. We may have been the 116th Escape Room to come to the table, but we had brought something that had caught the attentions of others. They wanted a piece of panic action.
And who were we to say no to that? After negotiations and lots of planning The Panic Room Harlow was born! Setup inside Q Entertainment who also hosts Crazy Gold, Laser Tag and other businesses we quickly got to work.
With The Don and Urgency behind us, we trekked over the Harlow in Essex and built larger and improved versions of our two original rooms The Panic Room and The Witch House, it was fantastic to do this in a completely different and adaptable space. Within just a couple of months we had both rooms up and running meaning we had 5 rooms now open across 2 counties!
In just 8 months we had designed and built 5 different experiences but we weren’t going to stop there. It had taken a toll but we were loving every minute and only wanted to do more! It was just the beginning and there was another building on the horizon. Just across the road an awesome spacious building came on the market and we went for it!
Having just wiped the previous rooms sweat off our brows we signed the lease and got to work. This new space meant that we could build 3 new large escape room experiences and double our size in the process.
During this time we started growing and nurturing a team of Gamemasters to run the rooms, the team we built was fantastic full of enthusiastic and passionate people. Some of that original team we still have with us to this day. Familiar faces like Shereen, Peter, Aaron and Becky have been with us for nearly 3 years now!
We kept ourselves to a tight schedule yet again, clearly not learning from previous stresses. We proceeded to start production on The Dollhouse, our first horror room and a big step up from anything we had created before. Lots of unique props to source and build, trying to up our game in set design while also ensuring the get the right balance of gameplay and horror.
What resulted was something we were extremely proud of, the final game was fun, scary and very difficult. We had to make changes early on as although people were loving the room, they weren’t getting out either, after a few adjustments it finally settled and was even better than before.
A fun fact about The Dollhouse, due to demand from customers we started opening 11:30pm slots, people were actually booking them however it meant that we were working 15 ½ hour days every day which even we couldn’t keep ourselves going for it so had to cut back to the 10pm being the last slot.
Next in line was The Panic Room, a completely remade version of the original room, bigger and better than ever. We quickly got to work after Dollhouse and started recreating the room, it was a lot of fun and we experimented even further with technology and it created some incredible moments of excitement for teams.
Last but not least was The Gilman Hotel. Gilman was something that I personally had a craving to create that took some convincing with Monique to make. We found some absolutely incredible props and created a brand new gameplay element for our rooms which was including a live actor. This room was incredible to make and looked absolutely beautiful, with carefully crafted custom props throughout we created an immersive world that you would step into and feel the change. No expense was spared, even down to the £70 a roll imported wallpaper used for the reception area.
All the hard work and effort led up to to the stress testing of the room and it was a resounding success, I absolutely loved played the Gilman Hotel owner and managed to scare the hell out of our staff!
And with that were done for the year. Building and designing 8 rooms in 11 months…not bad right?
What started as a ember of a dream for both of us, we had actually done something amazing. Who would have thought that just us two could have achieved all of this with what little resources and time we had? It seemed impossible, but as you all have seen, we saw impossible as a challenge.