Two locals open Frisco Escape Room
December 25, 2015
The popularity of escape rooms is picking up steam across the country, and two young, new business owners are ready to get in on the game. The second puzzle-themed activity to open in Summit is Frisco Escape Room, right on Main Street. Started by Ian Greene and Richard Mackoy, their first room to open is based around Summit County history.
"Summit County was really starving for an activity … a post-apres activity — something else besides eating, drinking and shopping," Greene said. "We really wanted to do something that was Summit County-related. We didn't want to just do any other activity; we wanted to make it a special, specific Summit County activity. We were trying to keep the mountain vibe — in fact, the colors that we have here were all picked off the historic register for the colors of the time. We are just really trying to integrate Summit County into our escape room, that's our niche. We are not just any escape room; we are a Summit County escape room."
The theme of the room revolves around the true story of outlaw Pug Ryan, who robbed the Denver Hotel in Breckenridge with his gang in 1898. Fleeing with their treasures to a cabin in Kokomo, they were soon caught by two lawmen and a shootout ensued, killing Ryan's partner and the lawmen. Ryan escapes, leaving his treasures behind, and, 10 years later, they are discovered by school children having lunch. This is where the puzzle jumps in: Participants in the escape room are miners down on their luck in 1908 and have just heard the rumor about the school children's find. Believing the treasure is stashed in the classroom, to solve the puzzle the treasure must be found in 60 minutes.
"You're getting more than just a puzzle here; you're getting a little history lesson," Greene said. "It's so fresh, it's such a recent history. It's so young that it's tangible — it's still there. You can see structures that were here 100 years ago that are still there."
Mackoy added that there are still mines in the area that were used in that time.
"Driving to Breckenridge, you pass four gold mines, there's a dredge in the middle of Breckenridge, and that dredge used to mine gold," he said.
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"I think the historically inspired puzzle was just really a big changing point for us, too, the idea of just making a puzzle was something that we are familiar with — OK, we can design a room — the sooner we realized that we can really use the county and how long it's been here, it just added to exactly what we were trying to do, the whole experience."
The two were looking to get into a business and originally planned to buy a bar in Breckenridge in the spring. But as they got deeper into it, the pair didn't feel the deal was quite right and decided to turn their focus elsewhere. Greene, who had undergone knee surgery around the same time, worked on writing out a business plan during the healing process, intent on becoming a Summit County business owner. After bouncing around ideas, the concept of opening an escape room became more and more appealing, and, after the two went down to Denver to try one out themselves, they were hooked.
Over the summer, the two approached Brian Lacertosa of Denver Escape Room, and he signed on as an investor and to help get the Frisco Escape Room off the ground.
"He really helped us get to where we are," Greene said.
Before the two had even rented the space, he and Mackoy started creating the pieces of the puzzle. Every piece of the escape room puzzle was designed by the two, which they both really enjoyed doing. Mackoy said the inspiration behind the puzzles would come from ordinary objects.
"A lot of it's like every day; we will be walking by something, and I'll be like, 'Man, that color combination could be a code, or that really weird mechanical object could be a strange puzzle,'" he said.
Greene said the concept of using ordinary objects in unique ways is part of the draw.
"It's really fun for people to be able to use ordinary objects in other ways, to come to an answer or a conclusion," he said. "When I started designing the puzzle, I think I started with, well, this is the theme we want to go with, and, from there, we do the backstory to go with the theme, and then from there, we can start taking individual smaller puzzle pieces and fitting them in certain places and then correlating items you would find in that specific scenario."
The historical aspect of the puzzle required some time and research, as the two wanted to make sure it was accurate, and the objects in the school room were representative of the times. They spent some time on the Summit Historical Society's website and also reading Summit history books by local author Mary Ellen Gilliland.
While they were doing research using test groups, Mackoy said it was a really great experience to see the wheels start turning when people began connecting the things they had put together.
"I like showing people a good time," Greene said. "When people come out of here cheesing from ear to ear, you're stoked, you cant be happier. We just showed someone a great time. … That's the best reward, is the positive feedback."
From a summer idea to a full-fledged business in just under six months, the two are amped to keep expanding as they start to get business. Frisco Escape Room opened on Dec. 15 with one room, but, in the space they rented, the two have the potential to open up to five rooms total. They are already working on the second room, revolving around a covert operative's mission to find a missing M16 agent. They are pushing to have this room open right around Christmas.
But the two have no intentions of stopping there and have a slew of ideas they are tossing around.
"Starting a new business is all about committing to your idea, and you just have to stay committed to your idea, stay passionate about your idea and you have to keep driving forward, every day," Greene said
He said the escape room industry is so fresh, and that escape room owners are very welcoming and willing to share ideas. He doesn't look at the escape room that opened in Breckenridge in November as competition, but just another outlet to spark interest in the activity.
Greene and Mackoy are both extremely excited to be small business owners in Summit County specifically, as it is now the place they recognize as home.
"I live in a postcard — I understand why it costs so much to live here; it's not just an ordinary place," the former said.
The two have both lived here for about five years — he is from Philadelphia and Mackoy is from Albuquerque — and had taken on odd jobs around town before investing in this opportunity. The two met and became instant friends around three years ago as coworkers and continued that relationship to become partners.
They both have dreams of purchasing homes in the county and want to be invested in the local community.
"We signed a five-year lease here; we are not a short-term thing," Greene said. "I would love nothing more than to own a home here in Summit County. This place has totally blown me away — I've lived here for almost five years, and I still feel like I'm on vacation.
"We really take this county to heart, and we really wanted to create something special for the county. It's not just another humdrum activity; we really are putting ourselves into this because this place is a part of us. It goes hand in hand. It's not too hard for us to do something that we love."
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