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‘Escape’ in Farmington

For locals who have enjoyed or are curious about escape rooms, there is now an option in a popular Farmington location.

Lockdown Escape Games has taken up residency in The Factory in Farmington and are hosting a grand opening this weekend. The business is operated by Philip and Stacey Goggin, who first had the idea to pursue the idea less than a year ago.

“We were down in Branson visiting family and taking a short vacation in November or December of last year,” Philip said. “My son has had the escape room games on his phone and thought they were really cool, and we would sit and play them. We’d been wanting to go and do one, but they can get a little expensive at $25, $35 or $40 per person. For a family of five, that can get kind of costly.”

Philip said while in Branson, he and his wife decided to splurge and surprise their three children with a trip to an escape room.

“I thought, ‘OK, it’s going to be fun. Whatever,’” Philip said. “I’ve worked in EMS for 20 years. I’ve seen a lot of things and done a lot of things under pressure and stress. But that was life and death. It was different.

“I thought the escape room would be nothing. But when that clock started ticking and the goofy suspense music started, it was like this shift in personality. I was like, ‘Get out of my way! We’re going to solve this thing!’”

Saying the experience brings out the inner-child even in adults, Philip began wondering what kind of money escape room businesses are capable of making.

“At the time, I was in the process of selling out the software company I co-owned in St. Louis,” he said. “I knew that the buyback of those shares was going to yield a little bit of money for us. We had planned on going to Disney World. On the way home, we were talking and I said, ‘Guys, I’ve got a crazy question for you: How would you feel if we open an escape room?’”

Given the options of going to Disney World one time or building an escape room business from the ground up, Philip and Stacey said their children gave a clear response: the family should start an escape room.

Having been a paramedic for 20 years, Philip said he has also had some entrepreneurial experience which lent itself to starting another type of business. Philip and Stacey began researching the industry.

“We knew that we had to compete with the St. Louis market,” he said. “St. Louis has like 15 to 20 escape rooms. It’s a lot. It was important for us to be able to compete with that without pricing ourselves out of the local market. We actually sought out some gameplay companies and worked with them for several months designing the gameplay — tweaking it and making sure that it’s appropriate.”

The space that the Goggins’ acquired in The Factory, after being renovated to suit the business’s purpose, has the capability to offer up to four escape room games. One is currently ready for play, with two others in various stages of production.

The first room, a bank-themed room, is sponsored by Belgrade State Bank.

“We were in the initial process of talking to the company that helped to design gameplay,” Philip explained. “They were talking about ways to generate revenue for the buildout. I don’t think people realize the cost that goes into these. There are escape rooms that are valued at $80,000 to $100,000 per room. We were clearly not going to be able to do that, so we had to find the middle ground of value versus great gameplay experience.”

Saying there are several popular themes for escape rooms, including Sherlock Holmes, casino and bank rooms, Philip said he and Stacey went to work approaching local businesses that might want to sponsor a room themed after their business.

“We went to three or four businesses and Belgrade was one of them,” Philip said. “They really jumped on it. I don’t think there was much of a thought process apart from what a cool opportunity it is. Belgrade has bent over backward for us and been huge, huge supporters.”

Belgrade State Bank Small Business Specialist Janey Radford said the sponsorship provided a unique opportunity for the bank to be involved in a type of business that is rare outside of larger, more urban areas.

“We were super excited to have something like that marketed in our community that, typically, we only see in an urban area,” Radford said. “We saw it as a great opportunity for them and for us as well.”

In assisting with the sponsored room, Radford said Belgrade State Bank made branded bank materials available to the Goggins for inclusion in the escape room. Beyond just being an advertising opportunity, Radford said partnering with Lockdown Escape Games is an all-around win.

“We’re all about community engagement and this is an extension of that,” she said. “It’s kind of a bonus-bonus, because you’re helping out a small business but you’re also looking at bringing something to the community that’s for fun and enjoyment.”

Radford added that some of the bank’s employees who are also escape game enthusiasts have experienced the Belgrade State Bank escape room and have given it a full, two-thumbs-up recommendation.

With the sponsorship lasting a pre-determined amount of time, Philip said the corporate sponsor can either choose to renew their sponsorship or the opportunity will be open for other businesses in the future.

Depending on a variety of factors, the Goggins hope to have all three of their currently planned escape games operational by December of this year, with the second possibly opening within a month. Beyond that, interest from the public will determine the rate at which games will be changed.

“Initially, when we went into this, we were thinking about changing every six months or something,” Philip said. “However, in speaking with other people who have been doing this a lot longer than we have, we found that there’s not really a set number. Really, the metric is sales. If we see a significant drop-off, then we reevaluate and decide whether to change gameplay or change the theme.”

Despite the grand opening being this weekend, the Belgrade State Bank-themed escape game has been open for escapers for about two weeks. In that time, Philip said he and his wife have received a lot of positive feedback.

“It’s been even better than expected,” he said. “We were hoping that people were going to have a good time. When people play, we’re obviously watching from the back for safety reasons and to help with gameplay. The laughs and interaction was really fun to watch because a lot of people have never experienced this.”

Despite the growing popularity of escape rooms and similar games, there are many who have not had the opportunity to experience that type of entertainment. In a nutshell, Philip said, an escape room is a live-action game that has patrons attempting to escape from a ‘locked’ room in an hour by solving clues, riddles and puzzles.

“Let’s say you’re in a room with a lot of plumbing,” he said. “You find a wrench, that wrench may lead to a pipe that you undo and inside that pipe there is a code that maybe has a cypher found on the wall. One clue leads you to the next and eventually, the final clue is the clue that either gets you out of the room, solves the final riddle or provides the final answer. It really is this live-action mystery that you have to solve to break free.”

According to the Goggins’ planning and experience, the escape room format of game is one that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.

“Our biggest goal was to make sure this was family-friendly and that anyone can play,” Stacey said. “So we made it free for ages 8 and under. We’ve had teenagers come in and even 80 year olds. It’s a really good age range for us.”

Lockdown Escape Games can be enjoyed Monday through Thursday by appointment only, with Friday, Saturday and Sunday being available for both reservation and walk-in patrons. The business is open from 6 to 11 p.m. on Fridays, noon to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Ticket prices are $20 per person for a game and three hints — an additional option including unlimited hints is available. Gift certificates will be available beginning next week.

Philip said an additional opportunity for patrons is to arrange a gender reveal or even marriage proposal as the final clue in an escape game, which has not been taken advantage of yet but would allow for a unique experience.

The Goggins family decided less than a year ago to undertake the challenge of starting their own escape room business. That decision has culminated in Lockdown Escape Games in Farmington. Pictured are Stacey and Philip (behind) and Noah, Alli and Christian Goggin.

The Goggins family decided less than a year ago to undertake the challenge of starting their own escape room business. That decision has culminated in Lockdown Escape Games in Farmington. Pictured are Stacey and Philip (behind) and Noah, Alli and Christian Goggin.

The first Lockdown Escape Games room is a bank-themed room, sponsored by Belgrade State Bank and featuring branded materials from the bank to make the room as authentic as possible.

The first Lockdown Escape Games room is a bank-themed room, sponsored by Belgrade State Bank and featuring branded materials from the bank to make the room as authentic as possible.

Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at jscott@dailyjournalonline.com.

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