Work starts on Barrington escape room in former car dealership

 
 
Updated 2/27/2018 5:09 PM
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  • Amy Paulus and her father, Van, are starting Xscape in Time, an escape room business being built in a section of a former auto dealership on Northwest Highway in Barrington.

      Amy Paulus and her father, Van, are starting Xscape in Time, an escape room business being built in a section of a former auto dealership on Northwest Highway in Barrington. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

  • Amy Paulus and her father, Van, are behind Xscape in Time, an escape room business going into a section of the long-vacant Champion Dodge Chrysler Jeep on Northwest Highway in Barrington. Renovations began Monday.

      Amy Paulus and her father, Van, are behind Xscape in Time, an escape room business going into a section of the long-vacant Champion Dodge Chrysler Jeep on Northwest Highway in Barrington. Renovations began Monday. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

  • Amy Paulus and her father, Van, came up with the idea of putting an escape room business in the former Champion Dodge Chrysler Jeep on Northwest Highway in Barrington. A renovation has started in what were car wash, service and rental-car areas.

      Amy Paulus and her father, Van, came up with the idea of putting an escape room business in the former Champion Dodge Chrysler Jeep on Northwest Highway in Barrington. A renovation has started in what were car wash, service and rental-car areas. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

  • Remodeling began Monday for Xscape in Time, an escape room to be built in part of the long-closed Champion Dodge Chrysler Jeep dealership on Northwest Highway in Barrington.

      Remodeling began Monday for Xscape in Time, an escape room to be built in part of the long-closed Champion Dodge Chrysler Jeep dealership on Northwest Highway in Barrington. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

Renovations have started on part of a long-closed Barrington auto dealership along Northwest Highway that will become an escape room business.

Barrington residents Van J. Paulus and his daughter, Amy, are behind Xscape in Time, which will join Dawson Builders in the former Champion Dodge Chrysler Jeep dealership that closed in October 2008 and sat vacant for about nine years.

Work began Monday to transform dingy car wash, service and rental-car areas into space for Xscape in Time's group physical adventure games that are a feature of escape rooms. Games typically last an hour and involve players being locked in a room and trying to escape, using clues and other means to solve puzzles and riddles.

Amy Paulus said it's hoped the business will open by late spring. Her father has been researching games to offer in six planned escape rooms, each featuring a different theme.

"We realize that somewhere after a year or so we're going to have to start changing games," Van Paulus said. "And we're trying to think ahead on that. We've talked to people around the country who have designed these games."

Escape rooms have been popping up in the suburbs since 2014 -- some in office parks, strip malls and vacant downtown storefronts -- and attract a variety of players, including those from corporations seeking team-building activities for employees,

Industry expert Scott Nicholson said a decline in the growth of escape rooms could come as the market becomes saturated. Nicholson, a professor of game design at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford, Ontario, said lower-quality rooms will need to reduce prices or improve the experience to continue drawing customers when a shakeout occurs.

"In some markets, we see prices decrease across the board for the same games when there aren't new entries into the space, while in other markets, new games with more immersive activities, live actors or impressive technology appear to raise the bar," Nicholson said.

Amy Paulus said Xscape in Time's size and party room availability will make it stand out from the competition. Plans are for the business to cover up to 6,000 square feet -- 800 square feet more than originally planned -- to accommodate additional escape rooms or a second party space.

"I've had people say, 'Is it scary? Is it gory? Is it going to be gross? Am I really going to get scared?'" she said. "It has nothing to do with being scared. It's problem solving."

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