Break Room in North Huntingdon lets people blow off a little steam
Gritting one's teeth, screaming (silently or not), heading to the gym, or slamming a fist into a wall all are responses people may turn to when venting frustration or anger.
A new business in North Huntingdon is tapping into that need to blow off steam and maybe have some fun at the same time.
The Break Room, which advertises "therapeutic demolition," opened in late September along Route 30.
Staff members say customers enjoy booking a "break date" with friends, family, colleagues and sometimes on their own.
One young woman, a college student, recently paid to demolish some breakables after a particularly stressful day in class, says Crew Newcomer, 25, of Greensburg, site marketing manager.
Break rooms, sometimes referred to as "anger" or "rage" rooms, are popping up nationwide.
Giving an inanimate object — or five — a hearty whack with a baseball bat, golf club or crow bar may be a more socially acceptable way to throw a punch.
Sweet carnage left behind by Nate and his peeps! pic.twitter.com/8WmPsI5Ddv— Break Room (@BreakRoomIrwin) September 17, 2017
There is no candy reward, like when kids bust open a birthday pinata. But according to comments some clients have left on the Break Room's Facebook site, the crash of glassware or the shattering of a (gutted) computer tower can be just as satisfying.
Tables full of ceramic mugs, glass bottles and plates of all sizes are available for breaking.
According to Newcomer, his father, Larry Newcomer, was mulling ideas for the building he leases.
"He remembered seeing an article about rage rooms in Texas. We were thinking about a restaurant. We thought we could open a restaurant or corner the (local break room) market. We thought, 'Let's try this,' " Newcomer says.
The Escape Room at Pittsburgh Mills mall complex in Frazer closed its "rage room" last year after only several weeks in operation.
Finding a ready source for restocking "suitable material" was one issue, says co-owner Scott Leah.
"We did not see any real profit, and it was very loud. ... We did get a lot of requests for it. We still get requests today," Leah says.
The Break Room uses flea market and estate sales to restock, and some customers bring their own breakables.
Others donate boxes of old housewares, Newcomer says.
"Anything that can be smashed with a baseball bat, we'll take it," Newcomer says.
Mark Rivardo, a Saint Vincent College psychology professor, teaches a "myth busting" course referencing research that suggests aggressive activities — from pounding nails after being insulted to playing violent video games — can fan, rather than squelch, anger.
Blowing off steam can sometimes make people feel better in the moment, but may not truly be cathartic, according to Rivardo's resources.
"It certainly depends on what the purpose is," he says.
Planning a birthday party weeks in advance can be quite different from spontaneously deciding to smash things on the day a divorce is finalized, he says.
"You can also benefit from not letting (anger) out. It's a myth we have to let it out. Shut the office door, go home, rub your dog's belly or talk to your spouse," Rivardo suggests.
"There are other ways (instead of aggression) to get back to a happier place," he says.
Break Room customers seem more interested in something new and "fun to do," Newcomer says.
Social media postings from several visitors note they "had a blast" and will return to "smash things again."
"It's the only place where 'You break it, you bought it,' is a good policy," Newcomer says.
Customers can book birthday parties, divorce parties, broken heart or buried in bills parties.
They can choose a one-person package like "Lash Out," with a specific amount of breakables, for $45, or bring a pal for an $86 "Bash Buddies" session.
"We've had families come in. ... Most people are new to it and are curious," Newcomer says.
One couple came in to try it out and returned to schedule the man's 30th birthday party at the site, he says.
All customers must wear the safety gear provided, including gloves and helmets with face shields.
"Safety is a big priority," Newcomer says.
So far, more women than men are patronizing the business, including a lot of moms, Newcomer says.
"It's a fast fix," says Miki Tegethoff, 34, of Pittsburgh's North Side.
Barely winded after a quick demonstration session, Tegethoff calls herself a "break room enthusiast."
"I feel like I just did something bad," she says, laughing.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MaryPickels.