By Richard Chin Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) I love when I hear about a new business idea. An idea where women in business really think "outside the box". Well, in this case, entrepreneur Theresa Purcell is literally "Smashing the Box." At her St. Paul business called the "Break Room," Purcell hands customer a baseball bat or a sledge hammer or a frying pan and then shows them into a windowless room with some fragile objects: vases, lamps, dishes, electronic equipment. Then you, the customer just start whaling away....for a fee of course! Serenity Now....
Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
Have you ever thought it would be fun to be a bull in a china shop?
If so, you might be interested in a new business that is scheduled to open this spring in St. Paul's Hamline-Midway neighborhood.
Customers at the Break Room will be handed a baseball bat or a sledge hammer or a frying pan and then shown into a windowless room with some fragile objects: vases, lamps, dishes, electronic equipment.
Then you just start whaling away.
The "recreational destruction" venue is the brainchild of Minneapolis resident Theresa Purcell, who also created the Twin Cities' long-running Trash Film Debauchery movie series and does special effects for the Soap Factory's Haunted Basement.
"I've kind of always liked smashing things, even when I was a kid," said Purcell, 32.
She said she has used a sledge hammer to deconstruct a television set.
"It was fun. It was a good release," she said. "I figured other people would like to do the same thing."
Purcell said she plans to market her business as a stress reliever. She said she might offer discounts to people who just stopped smoking. Or to new parents.
Want to break something after a break-up? This might be the place for you.
Purcell said even people who aren't angry seem attracted to the idea. She said she's got some inquiries about bachelor party events.
"It feels good and fun to smash things," she said. "My grandma's into this."
Breaking stuff has a similar effect as exercising, Purcell said.
"It makes me feel better," she said.
Purcell said she plans to open her "you buy it, you break it" business in late May or early June at a space in Can Can Wonderland, an artist-designed indoor mini-golf course being planned at a former can factory building at 755 N. Prior Ave. She said she's also planning a fund-raising event at the Soap Factory, the Minneapolis art exhibition space, on April 30.
Purcell said customers will have to be 18 or older and will be outfitted with face masks, overalls, gloves and shoe covers. There will be a selection of objects you can purchase to smash to smithereens.
A plate might cost $1 or an old chair $3. But if you want to re-create the laser printer beat down from the movie "Office Space," that might costs $15 to $20.
Purcell said she expects customers would buy about five objects for a 20-minute whack session.
She said she'll be sourcing unwanted glass, pottery and ceramic pieces from thrift stores. Obsolete electronics gear will come from Tech Dump, a recycling service also located in the Midway area.
Cleaning up and recycling of the broken fragments will be part of the service.
"Customers just get to go hog wild and smash things -- we take care of the rest," according to Purcell.
The destruction room will be equipped with high-definition cameras so you can buy pictures or videos of yourself bashing a keyboard to pieces, she said.
"We want people to have a nice keepsake if they want," she said.
There will also be an audio system so you can program a soundtrack for breaking stuff. Want to smash plates to Smashing Pumpkins? You can do it.
Purcell said she'd eventually like to expand the business to include outdoor events to allow people to demolish bigger items like old cars. She'd also like to create a mobile break room inside a truck. It would park on a downtown street like a food trucks to allow office workers to blow off some steam during lunch hour.
Purcell isn't the first to come up with business based on breaking stuff.
In recent years, similar venues have started up in Dallas, Toronto and Novi Sad, Serbia, with names like the Rage Room or the Anger Room.
Russell Chastain opened the Smash Shack with his wife about two years ago in his garage in Jacksonville, N.C.
"We offer a guilt-free smashing environment for parties, date nights, anger therapy, missed anniversaries, or just because. We would much rather people take out their anger here in a safe manner rather than in unhealthy ways and unsafe places," according to the Smash Shack website. "Great therapy is writing and drawing on the plates and glasses before smashing!!!!!!!"
Chastain said a typical date night outing would involve smashing 30 items for $20.
Chastain said customers include people on team-building exercises, people who are undergoing marriage counseling, and people who have been sent by their therapists. He said about 80 percent of his customers are women. Chastain said he gets a call or an email nearly every day from someone else who is interested in opening up a similar business.
Shawn Baker, who in December started a smashing room company in Houston called Tantrums, said her customers have ranged from a chiropractor to bikers to stay-at-home moms. They pay $25 for five minutes, $35 for 10 minutes or $50 for 15 minutes to use lead pipes or golf clubs to tee off on dishes, mirrors, crock pots and toilets while listening to everything from heavy metal to classical music.
The idea that expressing hostility can have a cathartic or beneficial effect reaches back to thinkers ranging from Aristotle to Freud.
But according to a 2007 study, more recent research has shown that venting anger is at best ineffective and in some cases harmful.
"Expressing your anger doesn't relieve any aggressive tendencies; if anything, venting makes it worse," according to a study by researchers at the University of Arkansas, University of Michigan and Florida State University.
"The good feeling that follows venting anger is likely to reinforce venting and violence," the study found.
One of the study's authors, Brad Bushman, a psychology professor now at Ohio State University, admits that breaking stuff is fun.
"It's an adrenaline rush. People enjoy doing it, especially if it's relatively safe," he said. But "just because something feels good, that doesn't mean it's effective or healthy or it works."
Bushman's study suggested that expressing anger and aggression teaches people how to behave more aggressively.
"Aggression begets aggression. That's the take home message the research shows," said Jeffrey Lohr, a University of Arkansas psychologist.
Bushman and Lohr say that anger can be dissipated faster by breathing or relaxation exercises.
But Baker, the owner of Tantrums, said, "You don't have to be frustrated or mad to come here. You come because it's fun."
"I'm not doing this as anger management," Purcell said. "This is recreation. This is fun. There certainly is a release in smashing things."