YORK-The owner of a popular escape room attraction in Greater Williamsburg recently opened a second location of the business.
Operation Escape, which first opened on McLaw’s Circle in June 2019, expanded this past summer with the opening of a second location on Bulifants Boulevard in August.
Owner William Thompson, who previously worked at a Blockbuster video store and was later the general manager of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum on Richmond Road, first got the idea of operating an escape room while working at Ripley’s.
“I tried to incorporate an escape room there,” Thompson said. “I even went out and got a part time job at one while being the manager at Ripley’s just to learn more. It was then I discovered that I could do it on my own.”
Thompson said he decided to open a second location of Operation Escape due to customer demand.
“Repeat customers [were] asking for more,” he said. “I tried to build onto my first location but I could not get approval, so I decided to build at another location. I was inspired by a franchise owner in Texas with two locations fifteen minutes apart from each other. Our second location opened August 4.”
Thompson’s favorite aspect of the business is engaging with his patrons.
“I’m interacting and having fun with all the guests that visit, which I missed when I worked at the video store,” he said. “I loved my job at Blockbuster years ago and I loved my job at Ripley’s. However, at Ripley’s most of my days were managing the business in front of the computer. At the escape room, I’m doing both.”
People seem to be drawn to escape rooms because of “the mystery and problem solving,” Thompson said. “Having to work together as a team to achieve a specific goal can be very challenging and satisfying. Some people discover strengths they didn’t know they had.”
His guests come from various backgrounds and range from couples on date nights, families looking to make memories, and friends out for birthday celebrations to school groups, church groups, and corporate teams. While the bulk are tourists, “we do get a good amount of locals that visit,” Thompson said.
Between the two locations, Operation Escape has six diverse and challenging escape rooms, which vary in levels of difficulty. Themes vary as well and include “Carnival Caper,” “Escape From Neverland,” “Once Upon a Time,” and “Gold Rush.” Two others, “The Cursed,” about an escape from a swamp witch, and “The Other Side,” which involves a missing boy’s trip to another dimension, are sure to get visitors in the mood for Halloween. Guests have 60 minutes to complete each challenge.
Operation Escape’s two locations are at 217 McLaw’s Circle, Suite 4, and 221 Bulifants Blvd., Suite E. For more information, visit the company’s website.