Corrine Kenwood / Sun Staff Photographer

October 24, 2017

Escape Ithaca Expands Team Building and Critical-Thinking Business

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While students from big cities may be well acquainted with the idea of escape rooms, Escape Ithaca has brought the critical-thinking and team building phenomenon to downtown Ithaca. And as of recent, this phenomenon is expanding.

Ray Weaver, co-owner of Escape Ithaca, explained that the company opened about a year ago in a building located above the State Theatre of Ithaca and recently moved its establishment across the street in order to expand. Escape Ithaca can now hold up to 20 people who can compete against each other simultaneously.

The recent expansion of local businesses in Ithaca has proven that, despite being a small town, it can still be a good location for entrepreneurs. In fact within the past months, there have been several expansions in the Downtown Ithaca area — with Hotel Ithaca opening 90 new rooms, making it the largest hotel in the Commons, and Comics for Collectors relocating to a new establishment, doubling its current size.

However, Escape Ithaca has seen the most dramatic change in just a single year.

Escape Ithaca is an interactive entertainment puzzle room that challenges teams of two to 10 people to use their problem-solving skills, according to its website. The goal is to find combinations, solve riddles and open locks that will enable the team to escape a room within a 60-minute period.

“We kept hearing from customers that they wanted to bring in more people and they wanted to be able to compete with a group of friends,” Weaver told The Sun. “We just didn’t have the space to accommodate that in our old location. We wanted to have this larger space so we could run two games concurrently.”

Weaver said that Downtown Ithaca is a good location for the business because there are a large number of college students, originally from big cities, who are already familiar with the idea of escape rooms. The next closest cities with an escape room are Syracuse and Binghamton.

He added that the beyond these college students, the business is still working to inform the many Ithaca residents that have never heard of this type of operation. Escape Ithaca is currently advertising through social media, a mailing list and an e-newsletter.

“Ithaca is very much a hotspot for young professionals. It is very special in that way that it can support things that other smaller communities wouldn’t necessarily be able to,” Weaver said. “I think we still have some ways to go with educating the general community about what this business is.”

For Weaver, it was rewarding to see the business progress within just a year. He and his partner both have full-time jobs apart from Escape Ithaca, and he was pleased to see his work being converted into tangible success for the company.

Weaver said that he would like to expand the business to other cities in the future and thought that Utica, which is another college city two hours northeast of Ithaca, might be a good option.

“We definitely see a lot of students coming down on weekends and late nights. Everyone is really well-behaved,” Weaver said. “They’re an integral part of our business. We wouldn’t be able to be sustainable otherwise.”