Anger is an emotion that everyone feels at one point or another. That emotion can summon energy that sometimes cannot be contained. Cursing, throwing objects and hitting are actions people may do to release that energy. One entrepreneur and mental health professional named Vanessa O’Rourke has created a space for people to release that energy in a safe and fun way. O’Rourke created The Smash Spot, Miami’s first Black-owned rage room.
“Anger serves a purpose here at The Smash Spot. Essentially, I want people to leave here lighter and knowing they don’t have to suppress that anger,” said O’Rourke, Smash Spot’s owner.
The Smash Spot held its grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 12, in Miami. About 80 to 100 people came for opening night. The facility is located at 251 NE 166 St. by the Golden Glades. The Smash Spot, comprised of 1,105 square feet, contains three rage rooms where , for a fee, people can let out their anger and stress by destroying objects within the space. All customers who participate must be 18 years or older. Everyone who signs up to smash is equipped with a full bodysuit, gloves and a face visor. The only requirement The Smash Spot has for their patrons is everyone needs to wear closed toe shoes.
“I was not able to smash any items because I had on sandals. It makes sense and they were really good at explaining safety procedures,” said Alexis Brown, an attendee to the grand opening.
O’Rourke thought of the idea of the Smash Spot four years ago while she was serving in the U.S. Navy. She was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia and was stressed out. Her stress was driving her to the point where she wanted to throw objects. She did not have a safe space to release that anger while she was in Virginia. From then, she vowed to make one.
A few months later, she came home one evening and found her boyfriend cheating on her with two other women. This led to a physical altercation, which resulted in O’Rourke receiving an assault charge, a brandishing charge and reckless handling of a firearm charge. She avoided felony charges by pleading guilty, she said.
“These charges have made the journey more difficult but I am here. Because of my pain, I want to allow people to channel their emotions and anger in a safe environment to avoid consequences they will ultimately regret,” said O’Rourke.
O’Rourke provided a crime theme to her rage rooms. The three rooms have a sequence that tells a story for customers to experience.
“This is the first themed raged room. The rooms will include props, mysteries and other things you may need to pay close attention to,” said O’Rourke.
The first room is illuminated by a red light with yellow caution tape hung on the walls. Broken items litter the ground. The next room is the interrogation room with a table, two chairs, and a two-way mirror. The final room is like a morgue/laboratory with bodies covered up and beakers with liquids in them. O’Rourke had the vision but it was executed with the help of her creative director, Angee Melbranch.
“The hardest room to decorate was the crime scene. When it comes to decorating you have to create dimension. If you don’t have dimension it could lack the shock factor,” said Melbranch. Building the Smash Spot, the ladies had days that didn’t end until 2 a.m. Both of them put a lot of work to deliver a creative and fun experience for their customers.
“You are trying to create a scene. Things that are high up, and things that are on the ground all have to level out so people can understand where they are. If that scene doesn’t pop then it defeats the purpose of having a theme,” said Melbranch.
Customers who attended the grand opening left relieved. Mackenzie St. Lot came to opening night with his cousin who was dealing with some issues. Because of their session, the cousin was able to open up.
“He just went berserk on the items. I saw something that I haven’t seen before and I was able to talk about it with him,” said St. Lot.
O’Rourke is trying to get the Smash Spot on the road. The entrepreneur aspires to make her business mobile so she can travel to corporate areas and other parts of Florida to provide her service. Soon, she wants to work with the state or the county to employ felons because O’Rourke is very aware of how criminal charges can withhold someone from opportunities.
“I am not a felon but I understand that getting opportunities is not an easy process. Being that I went through all those hardships, I wanted to create an opportunity for myself that can provide jobs for other people,” said O’Rourke.