We had the good fortune of connecting with Marcus Sterling and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marcus, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Consistency and attention to detail. Our goal is to provide our guests a fully immersive experience from the start. We are a horror-themed escape center, fashioned after a 1940s hotel. Our website gives off that vibe, as do our social posts. Once a guest reserves a room, they receive a confirmation email fashioned after one that a hotel might send out. Upon arrival, the lobby is dimly lit and spritzed with a haunted mansion scent. 1940s music emanates softly from behind an old-fashioned radio. At the front desk, guests receive a welcome letter from management along with their room key. Speaking of the guest rooms, even these have details built in. While some guests might not realize it, others find they are fun ‘easter eggs’. For example, the door to Carnival Macabre is room 1962 – the year Ray Bradbury published ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, a novel about a dark carnival. Each ‘guest room’ is its own universe, providing occupants with sights, sounds, and scents that aid them in their immersion. Their only lifeline to the hotel is communication with “Mother” and “Housekeeper”. These staff members remain in character when communicating with guests either in person or over the telephone. Further, our guest’s experience does not end when the game is over. There is a hotel gift shop in our lobby, offering souvenirs of their stay. We also send out a weekly newsletter, Topia’s Tidbits, that continues our mythos of horror, puzzles, and the 1940s. We believe that remaining consistent with our mythos while paying attention to the smallest detail provides our guests with a memorable experience from before they arrive to well after they leave.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As mentioned above, Escape-topia provides guests with a unique experience. When we first opened our doors four years ago, escape rooms were not well known, and competition in the Fort Lauderdale area was light. Today, there are quite a few more escape rooms to choose from. However, we are developing a partnership with three other escape centers in the area and are excited to bring a new offering for friends and family to enjoy very soon. Covid dealt a blow to our company. Our plan to open a Halloween Haunt had to be put on hold until next year. But the pandemic helped us realize that our guests preferred private games, and it was safer for everyone. The pandemic also pushed plans for outside escape games to the forefront. We are working on these, along with offering Murder Mystery parties at our facility. No matter what direction expansion takes for us, we aim to keep our overarching story consistent with our mythos, to help our guests become fully immersed. After all, it is all about our guests’ and their experience.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Owning my own business was a dream made possible with the help of my family. My brother, owner of Carlos Anthony Art, is our artist and architect. My mother, known only as ‘Mother’, bumped our mythos up to a whole new level. My daughter, Angelina, has embraced her role as ‘Housekeeper’, sacrificing her weekends to help our company succeed. Together we each bring our unique gifts and talents to the table, offering our guests a unique experience. Finally, we want to thank our faithful guests, without whom none of this would be possible.
Other: (Gift Shop) https://hotel-topia.com/