IT LOOKS JUST LIKE GRANDMA’S LIVING ROOM. Every detail of the space screams vintage, save for the large flat-screen monitor off to the side. Centred on the chocolate brown shag are two rusty brown floral patterned sofas. Pictures of family members in shiny metal frames are showcased on shelves around a veneer cabinet that is mysteriously padlocked. A painting of sunrays shining down on a mountain range is prominently displayed, while on the coffee table sits an envelope, where the clues of escape lie within.
Part of a worldwide entertainment craze that, with the opening of Beyond Belief Entertainment Centre, is now in Vernon, escape rooms are not the same games we played as youth, where Colonel Mustard used the wrench in the ballroom to murder Miss Scarlet.
“Our escape rooms offer interactive live entertainment, where the players have to solve puzzles and riddles while looking for clues using the three theme scenarios we have. They have 60 minutes to finish the mission and escape the room,” explains Gary Woitzik, the co-owner of Beyond Belief, which not only features three escape rooms, but also an indoor axe-throwing target area.
Situated in a warehouse building in the north end of Vernon, Beyond Belief is the brainchild of Gary and his wife Jenn.
After acquiring the space two years ago, the couple’s plan was to start an event venture that used different theme rooms for birthday, Christmas parties and the like. They started last November, when Jenn, who has an aptitude for design, created a Santa’s village with her mom, and opened it to the public.
“After two weeks of crazy, hard work, we decided to change our idea,” said Jenn.
That’s when Gary, who specialized in computer technology and once owned and operated an indoor golf simulator in his native Ontario, came up with the idea to open an escape room.
“Gary has the Midas touch when it comes to business,” said Jenn. “We both felt there was not much here as far as entertainment goes for a certain age group and we heard that escape rooms were popular.”
After conducting extensive research and communicating with escape room forums online (yes, they are a thing), the Woitziks came up with a plan.
“We had our own vision and didn’t want to copy other rooms, some of which are designed by game designers then franchised out. We wanted to create something unique,” says Jenn. “We were thinking of possibility starting with one or two scenarios, but we wanted to make a good first impression, so that our escape rooms would not only cater to a younger generation, but to everyone.”
The three different themed rooms include the aforementioned ‘80s Aunt Edna’s condo, the ‘50s Hollywood room, which resembles a starlet’s dressing room, as well as a serial killer theme —think Hannibal Lector from The Silence of the Lambs.
To keep things fresh, the Woitziks plan to change the theme of the rooms on an annual basis.
“Everything in our rooms is monitored. We have microphones and cameras so that we can help people by giving them nudges. We want to see them succeed. That’s also why we give them 60 minutes to escape instead of the standard 45 minutes,” said Gary.
“It’s taking an evening of playing board games at home to a whole new level!”
– Rob Short, Loans Coordinator, Community Futures North Okanagan
Having poured a good chunk of their life savings already into the building, the Woitziks needed funds to bring their escape room-entertainment centre idea into fruition. That’s when they decided to approach Community Futures North Okanagan about its business loans services.
Guided by loans coordinator Rob Short, the Woitziks created a business plan, which was eventually approved by Community Futures’ loans committee.
“Jenn did most of the work, which saved us a lot of money as she designed it herself, but we also are grateful to Community Futures. Rob came to the warehouse a few times to check out what we were doing. He really helped us out at a good time, when we wouldn’t have been able to keep moving forward,” said Gary.
“Community Futures shared in the excitement that Gary and Jenn brought with their business plan, as it had both a high degree of entrepreneur spirit and introduced a new form of family entertainment to Vernon,” added Short. “It’s taking an evening of playing board games at home to a whole new level!”
The Woitziks know they made the right decision about their business venture, as they have already held a soft opening to some good reviews. More recently, they catered to a group of lawyers from Nixon Wenger and some doctors visiting from Calgary.
“Escape rooms are great for teamwork building,” said Jenn. “Some people that have visited other escape rooms have said that they like ours the best.”
“The axe throwing is also a great way to blow off some stream and frustration after a hard day at work,” added Gary.
With their official opening expected for some time in November, the public can now start booking into Vernon’s newest entertainment adventure. To book an escape room or axe throwing session, visit beyondbelief.ca or call 250-244-8408. You can also find Beyond Belief on Facebook.
Do you need financial help to open or expand your business? Reach out to Community Futures North Okanagan business loans program by contacting our business team at 250-545-2215 or at futuresbc.com