NORTH TONAWANDA – The owners of the soon-to-open Escape Room Adventures WNY admits their business is a challenge, but not for them.
The Woomer family’s escape room business is joining a growing number in Western New York that invite customers to come inside and solve a series of challenges to make their way out.
And it truly is a family affair, Carolyn and Mark Woomer, age 53 and 57, of the City of Tonawanda, celebrate their 30th anniversary this week and their daughter Amanda Woomer Limpert, 26, and son-in-law Adam Limpert, 28, recently celebrated their first. All four are world travelers, but the 20-somethings are moving back to the area from China to be part of Escape Room Adventures at 62 Webster St., which is expected to open Oct. 20.
Carolyn Woomer said the family link to the new business goes even deeper.
Last year the Woomers lost a son, Jedediah Woomer to synovial sarcoma, a rare type of soft tissue cancer found in his chest. He was just 19. He was diagnosed shortly after he graduated in 2014 from Tonawanda High School, where he had been a star swimmer and an Eagle Scout.
“We just promised Jed we were going to live our lives with joy, laughter and adventure - because he would be so upset at us if we don’t,” she said. “We feel like we are doing this in part to honor him. I don’t know if we would have had the guts to do something like this two or three years ago. It’s like, ‘Life you can’t scare me anymore.’”
She said the family believes this new adventure is going to be amazing and is going to bring people joy. She said they’ve “had a blast” whenever they have gone to other escape rooms.
The Woomers have all been actors in the Ghostlight Theater in North Tonawanda. Mark Woomer, a contractor and owner of Mark Anthony Builders also built sets for the theater troupe, which prepared him to bring his daughter’s creative ideas to life at Escape Room Adventures.
Carolyn Woomer said their first two rooms will include one based on the “Amityville Horror” movie and a second based on a darker version of “Alice in Wonderland.”
Visitors should be prepared to climb some stairs: Escape Room Adventures is located on the third floor, above Canal Club 62. It’s recommended for ages 14 and up.
Carolyn and Mark Woomer sat down with the Buffalo News to talk about their new family business.
What is an escape room?
Mark: I never had heard of an escape room until my daughter brought it up. Most people over 40 have no idea what an escape room is.
Carolyn: It started in Asia. It’s like a young hip thing.
But what’s the point?
Carolyn: It started online where you would have to solve a series of puzzles and questions to virtually escape a room and it has been taken a step further to escape a themed room of your choice.
Mark: With any of them you are trapped some place and you have one hour to unlock a series of puzzles to unlock the final door and get out.
What happens if you don’t get out?
Carolyn: You lose. But it is just like putt-putt. You just enjoy the experience. It’s challenging.
Who creates the puzzles?
Mark: Our daughter and her husband create the puzzles. They were challenged to make a puzzle room without combination locks. It’s riddle based.
Carolyn: Adam and Amanda have been to over 35 countries between the two of them. They’ve been in Russia and China and are coming back to do this.
Do you have to have a group to do this or can individuals join in?
Carolyn: It works better as a group of three or more with up to eight in a larger room. Most people like being in their own group. We do want to focus on team building, bachelorette parties, stag parties, graduations, whatever. We’ve also talked about singles and mingles nights. But we never force someone to be with strangers.
How will you be different than other rooms?
Carolyn: We will have a lounge for people to sit in and hang out. Downstairs is this full tap room and eatery. We are working together and promoting each other.
Mark: We are hoping that down the road we can have a package that you can get dinner for four and an escape room for a certain price.
Will the rooms change?
Carolyn: There will always be three rooms up and running with the fourth room being revamped, redone. The kids already have two years worth of puzzles. We want people to come back.
Mark: We want to constantly rotate every two to three months. I told my daughter, “You design it. I’ll build it.” And unfortunately she’s come up with some doozies.
You have a theater background. Will there be acting in this?
Carolyn: Sometimes we will have live people. We have one planned for next year and that will be one of my favorite ones. We have a lot of friends in the theater world and someone working with us is a world-renowned magician and creator for David Blaine. His name is Garrett Brown. He is consulting with us and is going to design a room for us based on magic tricks. We also have a friend who is a filmmaker. We are going to have a pregame room and he is going to produce short films for those rooms.
Mark: In our pregame room the door closes, the lights go out, and the video goes on. (Each video) is about one-minute long and they will explain to you what to expect. And then the door opens and lets you go in the room.
Why did you come here, to Webster Street?
Carolyn: This is such a great location. People can park their car and go across the street to Dwyer’s or the Canal Club and never put your coat back on.
Mark: We actually looked at a place on Niagara Falls Boulevard, but it was leased. When we heard about this place across from the Riviera Theatre we called our daughter in China and she said no, it’s too close to the other (escape room on Oliver Street) so for two weeks we did nothing. But we finally said let’s look at it. We walked in and fell in love with the place.
Carolyn: We live in the City of Tonawanda. This is where we live. And to be part of the resurgence that is happening on Webster Street is amazing to me.
Are escape rooms geared towards millenials?
Carolyn: Absolutely. But I think it’s mostly because word hasn’t got out to 40 or 50-somethings. Once we found out about it, because of our kids and our nephew, we really fell in love with it. It’s fun to work together. It’s different.
Mark: To me it’s a great concept. We are great “Survivor” fans, “Amazing Race” fans, which are reality shows. We are taking a reality concept and putting into a a one-hour venue for people to work together as a group.
Carolyn: Escape Room Adventures is a very deliberate name. To work together in the dead of winter for an hour in some fun scenario that you pick, it’s an immersive escape.
Did you ever think you would be doing something like this?
Carolyn: No. Never. But we promised Jed to live our life with joy and laughter...Adam and Amanda have been globe-hopping and they are coming back to do this.
Ticket information is available online at www.escaperoomadventureswny.com