VALRICO — Eric Matus grew up a Green Bay Packers fan from Wisconsin near the Illinois border, and moved here seven years ago — like so many other transplants — for the weather.
Matus worked with an escape-room game as marketing director, focused mostly on booking corporate team-building events. But he found it was difficult to gather co-workers together after work.
So he spent four months devising what he hopes will be a new opportunity — one that combines his love for escape rooms and the competition he likes to foster with rival Chicago and its sports teams.
Matus, along with co-owner Sherri Keith, has launched what he believes to be the second mobile escape room in the United States, the first being in Chicago. He calls his 34-foot-long, 8 1/2-foot-high trailer the Breakaway Express.
The clock ticks down from 60 minutes while contestants attempt to flee a 1920s Chicago alley into a prohibition-era speakeasy before being confronted by gangster Al Capone's rivals and the police. Contestants enter the trailer in a muggy alley setting and the longer it takes to crack the door code, the longer they wait to enter the air-conditioned speakeasy.
Matus rates the puzzle medium to hard. He sits in his office behind the main room watching on cameras and offers clues if needed. He also points out the emergency escape buttons for anyone worried about panic attacks.
"We wanted to put a different spin on the average escape room," said Matus, who installed most of the wiring, lighting and sound effects himself. "It was a fun project to build."
Launched in June, Breakaway Express has thus far focused on birthday parties and charity events, but Matus wants companies to know this type of team building event qualifies as a tax deduction.
Matus said he will bring Breakaway Express as far south as Fort Myers and as far east as Orlando, even farther for a special large engagement.
The cost is $35 per person to try cracking codes, figuring out combinations and locating keys that will ultimately get you out before the wise guys close in. Six people can participate at a time.
Call (863) 529-1120 to book an event.
Stay tuned for other possible escape rooms from Matus. He said a potential brick-and-mortar escape room in Clearwater could open in the future and a second mobile unit, with a spaceship theme, is due out by the end of 2017.
Bulk Nation launches zero-waste solution
Bulk Nation has launched a zero-waste shopping solution in all its Florida locations, including the Brandon store at 2426 West Brandon Blvd in Regency Square. Customers are invited to bring clean, reusable containers and/or burlap bags from home.
After a Bulk Nation cashier inspects and weighs the container, customers can fill them and at checkout, the weight of the container is deducted to ensure the customer is charged only for the weight of the product.
The Washington, D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute estimates that Americans discard 100 billion plastic bags annually.