Escape is their business and the business is good

Escape room business opens its doors in Oak Park

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

You're in a room. The door is locked. There's no way out. The clock is ticking. What do you do?

You put on your thinking cap because it's time to solve some riddles and find your escape.

That's the new challenge presented to Oak Parkers at Escape Factor Chicago, 711 South Blvd. Escapees aren't really locked in a room, of course, but the live-action game is set up that way to encourage cooperation amongst team members to find the answers to various puzzles leading to their ultimate release.

You have one hour to make it out and cell phones and other electronic devices are prohibited – teams must rely on their collective knowledge, cooperation and problem-solving skills.

That's one of the things that makes the new escape-room trend special, according to Jonathan Biag, co-owner of Escape Factor Chicago.

"When was the last time you spent 60 minutes of quality time with your friends and family and left electronics out of it?" Biag said in an interview.

Biag said Escape Factor Chicago is less than a month old and only has one themed room available so far – "The Timekeeper's Trap." But in time they plan to add additional rooms and challenges, Biag said.

He and his business partner, Dexter Cura, invited Wednesday Journal staff to give it a try last week. The secret sauce at Escape Factor Chicago is solving the riddles, so no spoilers in the story or to your friends who might want to give it a try. But one hint – and Biag and Cura will give hints to teams when they get stuck – is that it involves a lot of clocks.

Time is of the essence and an hour goes by a lot faster than you'd expect at Escape Factor.

Biag said he and childhood friend Cura – the two grew up in Glen Ellyn – started the business because of the increasing popularity of escape rooms across the country and a lack of one in the Oak Park area.

He said Escape Factor started out with the clock theme because they wanted a family friendly escape room that would appeal to all ages. Biag said other escape room companies have zombie or horror themes, but he and Cura didn't want customers to feel scared or trapped.

Biag said that although the escape games are more popular in Europe and Asia, the trend has been catching on the U.S. "In the last few years they've started to gain steam, but a lot of people still don't know what they are," he said.

He said the rooms are for ages 8 and up – basically, anyone old enough to read is old enough to play. The younger groups sometimes just need a little more nudging, he said. 

Escape rooms also host larger groups for corporate team building exercises. Biag said Escape Factor already is fielding calls from corporations wanting to send over their employees. "Companies love it because people get to work together in a different type of atmosphere," Biag said.

He said teams are usually between four and 10 people and the experience costs $32 per person. More information is available on the website at www.escapefactorchicago.com.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Simone Boutet  

Posted: May 25th, 2016 7:41 AM

What a great addition to Oak Park. I wish this business well. I did one of these in London and it was a fun family activity. It teaches participants a little about themselves, their problem solving skills, and their group dynamics, so it's an interesting team building activity too. Fun!

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