How Roanoke's First Escape Room Started

A successful small business starts with an idea. An individual catches a dream for something and starts to chase after it! Deciphered is no different. Had you driven by 15 S Jefferson St. any time before March 2017, you wouldn't have seen an escape room. You would've seen an insurance benefits group or perhaps a bar or maybe a vacant building. But now, you will find Roanoke's first and most highly-rated escape room. Many people ask us how we got our start. This is our story.

The Birth of an Escape Room

Back in 2016, co-owners Brandon Ford, Ben Shaw, and Luke Croft were working in their own respective careers. Brandon worked in the accounting department of a large construction company, Ben served as a Risk Assurance Associate, and Luke wrote for a content marketing firm. From the time they met in Roanoke College’s business program, Ben and Brandon always knew they wanted to become entrepreneurs, and the aha moment came during a visit with his family that took him to - you guessed it - an escape room!

Brandon, like so many others, caught the bug for escape rooms and called Ben to see if he wanted to meet him to try an escape room in Roanoke. There was only one problem. There was no escape room in Roanoke! Knowing how popular the activity had become, the two could hardly believe it. Roanoke is a town of nearly 100,000, has one of the best restaurant scenes in the state, and plays host to a variety of festivals, conventions, etc. How could a city as great as Roanoke not have an escape room?

Combining their passion for business and their love for the area they’d spent the last four years in, they decided to do something about.

By the end of 2016, the two had put together a business plan for opening up an escape room in downtown Roanoke. Ben would use his business acumen to run the administrative side of the company while Brandon used his years of construction experience to build out the custom rooms. The only thing missing was a creative mind that could design the rooms themselves. That’s where Luke came in.

In February of 2017, Ben and Brandon approached Luke about becoming the third owner and creative director at Deciphered Roanoke. With the team assembled, the goal was simple - design and build custom escape rooms that people love.

We officially launched in March 2017 with two rooms, the post-apocalyptic cabin-themed room A Few Morsels and the chaotic space station-themed room Our Last Breath. From the start, the rooms were a hit. Both escape room experts and first-timers enjoyed the challenge, unique-quality, and care that the rooms were built with.

A Year of Growth

Since launching last year, Deciphered has seen over 10,000 people come through our doors — friend groups, families, escape room enthusiasts, and company staffs. We’ve made it our personal goal to give each of these individuals the best escape room experience possible through clever puzzle designs and excellent customer service.

As well as expanding our audience, our business has grown as well. We have launched six unique rooms, built out a free lobby puzzle experience for people to get a taste of what an escape room is like, and launched our exclusive Unlocked Club for escape room lovers to get the most out of their dedication to Deciphered.

We've expanded our staff to include six employees and promoted long-time staff member, Sophie Youtz, to the position of General Manager. All while maintaining the idea that we want to provide the best escape room experience possible!

We are immensely proud of what we've built in Downtown Roanoke, and we look forward to continuing to provide fun and challenging escape rooms! Are you ready to see what we do best? Visit the Our Rooms page on our website and get started! Check out our themes and book a time for you and your friends to come experience the thrill!