Last month I told you about ESC the Room, an innovative entertainment business coming to East Lansing next year that makes participants solve logic problems to get out of an enclosed, locked setting — the “escape room” concept. I said it would be the first of its kind in Metro Lansing, but it turns out there’s one opening next week in Okemos: Escape 20/20. Co-owner/operator Kathleen Fox said solving and creating logic games has always been a secret passion for her, so opening Escape 20/20 was a natural move.
“I was actually the coordinator for a road rally for a long time, and I thought, wouldn’t it be good to do one in one location?” Fox said. “So I started doing some research and I found out about escape rooms. Then it was just a matter of figuring out how I could bring that to (the Lansing area).”
Fox, a human resources and talent management director for a Michigan-based nonprofit, is joined in the venture by her two sisters. She said that working in the nonprofit sector has been fulfilling, but it’s only allowed her to stretch her problem-solving muscles. Escape 20/20, however, will enable her to come up with some creative problems for other people to crack. It also gives her a cool alternative job title: cluemaster.
“If you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to do some thing you love,” Fox said. “This is a perfect match for me.”
Escape 20/20 comprises four themed rooms that can accommodate four to eight players each. The overarching theme is time travel, with each room dedicated to a specific moment in history. Next week, only two of these rooms — a Victorian-era parlor and a den straight out of the 1950s — will be up and running. The other two rooms are set to open within a couple months.
“Almost everything in the rooms is authentic to the time period, which required a lot of shopping and research,” Fox said. “We want to be a unique experience you talk about for months afterward.”
In a game, players will have one hour to solve a series of puzzles to figure out how to get out of the room. Fox said sometimes the solution will come from scavenger hunting, other times from a Sherlock Holmes-style clue collection strategy.
“In every case, it requires cooperation,” Fox said. “These rooms will allow you to test your limits as an individual and as a group. It’s great for families and for team-building exercises for organizations. We’re really trying to (highlight this) as a leadership tool.”
Hidden surveillance equipment in the rooms allows game masters in the control room to monitor progress and provide clues if players get stumped. They will also record the action and allow the team to review its performance afterward.
“We sit down and analyze the solution and show who did what when,” Fox said. “Who delegated, who led, all the dynamics. People are often surprised by the results.”
For now, Escape 20/20 doesn’t accommodate walkins. If you’re itching to be locked in a room with half a dozen of your coworkers or closest friends, you’ll have to make an appointment.
“We made the rooms challenging, but do-able,” Fox said. “You’re definitely going to get that sense of accomplishment. If you teach people to fish, you’re fed for life. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Best years of R lives
After 23 years of business, Kathy O’Neil closed her restaurant, the R-Club, Tuesday. She posted a letter to the restaurant’s website last week, thanking the community for its support and thanking her late husband, Dave O’Neil, who died in 2005, for helping her launch the west side eatery. The letter, edited for space, is as follows:
"After much thought and many tears, I have made the hardest decision of my life. On Dec. 22, I will be closing the doors of the R-Club and opening a new door to my future.
I have had the privilege of employing hundreds of extraordinary men and women (who) have become best friends and family. I can’t imagine getting through life without you. Your loyalty, dedication and passion humble me, and I will be forever grateful.
I’ve watched couples meet for the first time and later become engaged at the R-Club. I have watched so many of your children grow up, and I’ve even had the pleasure of hiring some of them, along with many of their siblings and friends.
Together we have hosted many events, raising well over $100,000 for various causes and friends in need. I’ve lost count of how many meals have been delivered to those who are sick, or in need of some cheer, or to say thanks for your business, or just because I can.
I will hold R memories in my heart, and I hope you will do the same. I leave you with my love, my deepest appreciation and my everlasting friendship.”
Escape 20/20 2380 Science Parkway, Okemos info@Escape2020.com, escape2020.com