By SCOTT AUST, FCEDC Director of Communications
Editor’s Note: This story is part of a month-long series called the 25 Days of Downtown Christmas that will highlight the fantastic selection of retailers in downtown Garden City.
Escape rooms have become an increasingly popular pastime worldwide in recent years and Garden City is no exception.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of local entrepreneur Nate Morrison’s opening of Escape the cLock at 124 N. Main St. in downtown Garden City, and the business has really grown during that time.
“When we first started, there wasn’t hardly anybody who knew what an escape room was. It was pretty interesting to see how people reacted,” he said.
Describing the escape room concept really depends on the age group, according to Morrison. For a younger generation, it can be described as a live action video game like Resident Evil, or mixed media games where you have to figure things out to advance.
“To an older generation I would say it’s more like a quest room, where you use puzzles, riddles and clues to solve other puzzles, riddles and clues to ultimately lead you out of the room,” Morrison said. “There’s a story behind it, and you have to work through the story’s puzzles and riddles to either get out of the room or find the treasure in the room, whatever the end goal is.”
Escape the cLock caters to groups of families and friends, as well as professional clientele who use the escape rooms as corporate team building exercises for their employees and staff.
Morrison was introduced to escape rooms about four years ago when he took his son Drew to one in Colorado Springs for his birthday.
“I thought it was going to be totally lame but when we got there it was great, so we decided to go to 25 more, and open my own. That’s how we got started in escape games. We started playing them on our phones and it evolved into this,” Morrison said.
Morrison said he loves being downtown and the building they are in, which is the old public defender’s office, was very conducive to the escape room concept because it has lots of different rooms, good square footage and didn’t require construction.
“I liked the idea of being downtown. All the old buildings went really well with our steampunk style,” he said.
Currently, Escape the cLock has four escape rooms, each with a different theme. Morrison intends to start changing the themes sometime in 2018 but is playing it by ear, noting that the first room, called the Bunker Room, a World War II themed room, is still going strong after a full year of use.
“I expected when we first started that it would be six months based on our population size to work through all the people before they got tired of it. But nope, we still have people who come in who have never done an escape room, and that’s the one we put them in because that’s the best starter room we have. It’s very linear, easy to understand, lots of locks, lots of codes,” he said.
Other room themes include the Mayan Experience, Twisted JigSAW, and Alice in Wonderland: The Final Chapter.
Currently, an immersive theater writer is used to come up with the scenarios and the base algorithms surrounding it that allow the puzzles and riddles to interact and people can’t solve clues out of the intended order.
Generally, an escape room session takes about 90 minutes which includes a briefing before and after. The goal is to escape before an hour is up.
“A lot of people try to do it as fast as possible, but it’s honestly just about making it out because they are hard. Everybody underestimates the struggle you go through in an escape room,” Morrison said.
The cost for a session is $15 per adult, $12 for teens age 13-17, $10 for ages 7-12 and free for age six and younger. During the First Friday downtown promotions, admission is $10 per person. Corporate and non-profit groups rates range from $10 – $12 per person.
Escape the cLock is also available for non-profit groups to hold fundraisers. The business will partner with an organization for a weekend and donate 20 percent of sales to the organization.
Fun for all ages
Escape rooms may be enjoyed by all ages, but those 13 and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Morrison said he has been impressed with the variety of age groups who have participated.
“We don’t charge for six-year-olds, but they seem to be the secret weapon in escape rooms,” he said. “When you bring a six-year-old, they figure out all the locks with no problem. But we’ve also had a pretty large following of the older crowd too. Just the other day we had a group of ladies who own a quilting company come there here, and they were just hilarious.”
Morrison said it’s been interesting to watch the corporate groups come through and how they interact.
“That’s really cool, being able to break down these people who work together every day and help them work better together, where you’ve got the low guy on the totem pole working right next to the main boss. They’re talking to each other, figuring out each other’s strengths,” he said. “It’s valuable for the employer, it’s valuable for the employee. I didn’t expect to see that amount of effect on those groups.”
Morrison grew up in northwest Oklahoma then moved to Tulsa after high school and went through Ford Automotive training before coming to Garden City and working for Burtis Motors for a couple of years. His fiancée’ Robyn Slate is a co-owner of Escape the cLock. About four years ago, Morrison opened the VaporWave shop at 519 W. Mary St.
“Here, I get to watch people interact with each other, work with each other, talk with each other,” he said when asked what he likes about Escape the cLock. “Most of the time, they forget they’re being watched so they’re totally themselves. Where at VaporWave, most people are in and out. I get a lot more engaged with customers here.”
Booking times for the escape rooms are typically available between noon and 9 p.m., but Morrison says they can accommodate any group’s schedule. They also offer walk in experiences during certain hours, usually on the weekends, but check with Escape the cLock on that.
Morrison said the best way to reach Escape the Clock for more information and to book a time is through its website: www.escapetheclockgc.com. The business can also be reached at (620) 805-5064.