Business

GoFree Escape Rooms offers clues and adventure: Ground Floor

Broker Langfald, 10, of Marion tries to solve a puzzle box in the Collector Room while at GoFree Escape Rooms his family, including father Mike Langfald (above), and the Strader family of Marion in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 16, 2018. Clues and puzzles hidden throughout the room lead to the ultimate goal in the room of finding a stolen artifact. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Broker Langfald, 10, of Marion tries to solve a puzzle box in the Collector Room while at GoFree Escape Rooms his family, including father Mike Langfald (above), and the Strader family of Marion in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 16, 2018. Clues and puzzles hidden throughout the room lead to the ultimate goal in the room of finding a stolen artifact. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Friends since the second grade, Chris Nutting, Adam Berg and Alex Anderson started exploring business opportunities while they still were attending Alburnett High School.

Their early ideas ranged from buying an icemaker and selling ice to designing and patenting a unique mechanical pencil — a lot of “random stuff,” Berg recalled.

Nutting and Anderson went on to graduate from the University of Northern Iowa, while Berg obtained an engineering degree from Iowa State University. They started their respective careers, and Anderson moved to Colorado.

“The real motivation for me is I love Iowa and I don’t want to leave,” Nutting said. “I want my best friends to stick around, too, and having a business together is a way to do that.”

Nutting first learned about the escape-room concept, a type of adventure game, from a radio program. Players are “locked” in a room and presented with a series of puzzles that they must solve using clues, hints and their wits to escape from the room within a set period of time.

Intrigued by the possible business opportunity the concept presented, Nutting told his friends about it. They then sought out existing escape rooms to experience the concept firsthand.

“Our reaction was, ‘This is awesome,’” Nutting recalled. “We thought we could make a really top-notch escape room.”

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They found a location near Lindale Mall on Collins Road NE in Cedar Rapids in October and began building out their first escape room, relying on Berg’s engineering expertise to design the room.

“It’s all original,” Nutting said. “We developed the story and put together all of the clues and props ourselves.”

With the partners all working full-time jobs and Anderson still living in Colorado, it took longer than they expected to complete the first room for their GoFree Escape Rooms. They began trial runs in December and bookings in January.

The first room, called “The Collector,” features the story of a collector who has disappeared along with a valuable Egyptian amulet. Players must search his office for clues to find the missing artifact before time runs out.

A handful of escape rooms already operate in the Corridor.

“Others have their unique stories, which is good. We have ours, too, but we also have a wow factor,” Nuttig said.

He wouldn’t say what the “wow factor” is so as not to spoil the surprise, but noted it’s related to the design of the room.

The partners opened a second room, called “The Misfortune Teller,” earlier this month — also with an unspecified wow factor, they said — and plan to add a third in May.

With their first business venture underway, the friends already are thinking about their next project.

“We want to keep bringing new concepts and ideas to Cedar Rapids,” Berg said.

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l Know a business in operation for less than a year that would make a good “Ground Floor” feature? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

At a Glance

l Owners: Chris Nutting, Adam Berg and Alex Anderson

l Business: GoFree Escape Rooms

l Address: 208 Collins Rd. NE, Suite 206, Cedar Rapids

l Phone: (319) 435-1447

l Email: escape@gofreeiowa.com

l Website: gofreeiowa.com

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