Local escape rooms helping people escape their screens

A player at Escape Rooms Connecticut in Orange searches for clues that will get her team out of the escape room.

A player at Escape Rooms Connecticut in Orange searches for clues that will get her team out of the escape room.

At a time when most human social interaction is through a screen, the growing number of escape rooms in Connecticut appear to be bucking the trend.

Escape rooms are adventure games where teams of friends, family or colleagues work together to find clues and solve puzzles to escape a simulated danger before time runs out.

The popularity of the interactive experience has created a network of businesses that have appealed to different demographics in age and background. They are popular with both college students looking for a night out, with millennials and those slightly older and with corporations that use them for team-building.

On a national scale, the industry has thrived since arriving in the United States in 2014. Reports from USA Today say that the number of escape rooms has surged to 2,300 locations nationwide this year, up from an original two dozen.

The trend has made its way to southwestern Connecticut, which has seen several locations open in the past few years, appealing to an array of people looking for entertainment that will make them think while out with friends.

“This is a unique experience that you’re sharing with other people and working towards a common goal and (I) think that appeals to people. It certainly appealed to me,” said Mark Curran, Operations Manager at Panic Room in Norwalk, which has been around since 2015.

Before he joined the Panic Room team in 2016, Curran said he was introduced to the budding industry in California as a consumer.

“I would do them frequently there and there were a lot of options there, but in moving back here, I didn’t see a ton of options at first — but it is becoming rapidly opening,” Curran said.

Most escape rooms feature three to five themed rooms that teams can participate in. With the variety of offerings, Curran, along with other business owners, said they welcome additions to what has become a thriving network in Connecticut.

Following her retirement from the North Haven Police Department, Julie Mateus decided to put her experience as a detective into starting her own escape room business in Orange. She and her wife opened Escape Rooms Connecticut in October at 500 Boston Post Road.

“I really wanted a new change,” she said, adding the business has steadily increased since they opened their facility less than a mile from another escape room.

The industry is not without its share of challenges though.

There are fewer markets that have one or no escape room businesses in them, which business owners claim has made it much harder to break into their respective markets.

“It’s still very much a growing business,” said Stuart Bogaty, owner of Trapt Escape Room which introduced Stamford to the wave in 2016.

Setting up at 76 Progress Drive, Trapt now shares the market with Deadlocked Escape Rooms which opened last year. Though there is still a competition for foot traffic, Bogaty said he doesn’t see it as a detriment to his business, which has continued to thrive amid new openings in different markets.

As the industry continues to grow in terms of the number of establishments, businesses that have been around for a while are also increasing their offerings as well. Trapt expanded its space over a year ago and is looking to possibly open another location.

“I think we will continue to see some growth, but I don’t know if the closing will offset the growth to have it kind of break even so things are neutral,” Bogaty said. “But I think in a year we are going to see more closings than openings. I think there are going to be some players who stand above the rest.”