As the year winds down, I intend to avoid any aphorisms or wisdom accrued over the past year—far too cliché. New Years Day is, after all, a capricious imposition of significance to a 24-hour period that otherwise if fundamentally like any other. Just an arbitrarily agreed-upon point on the elliptical orbit. Why impart words of wisdom that could be just as pithy on June 30th, or February 2nd?
Instead, I’ll keep doing what (I feel) I do best: look at things and then write about them. In other words, business as usual. Maybe something pithy will rise to the top. This time, it’s from a handsome little building in an outlying Cincinnati suburb that I’ve featured before. Harrison straddles an equally arbitrary physical line of demarcation—the longitudinal boundary between Ohio and Indiana. The larger, older municipality of Harrison is on the east side of the line; significantly smaller West Harrison, Indiana is on the other. In this photo looking south, Ohio is on the left side of the dividing street; Indiana is on the right.
But the building in question rests fully within the Ohio side, on the well-preserved two-block main street of Harrison, appropriately named Harrison Avenue. (See my previous Harrison blog article for better photography of this town’s fine little streetscape.)
More importantly, it’s the use—or, rather, the useS within this building that are the chief point of interest.
Perhaps this is more common than I’m giving credit, but it’s the first time I’ve seen this combination of two adult-friendly recreational activities that have become popular in the last decade or so: escape rooms and axe throwing. Sure, I’ve seen them both, and I’m just fun enough that I’ve tried each one (once). And they aren’t necessarily intrinsically adult-friendly (especially escape rooms, which I imagine many kids would love). But they simply lean more heavily toward adult recreation than, say, a giant pit of plastic balls. And, safety considerations notwithstanding, axe throwing could satisfy a child’s birthday party just as easily as the escape rooms. But both of these activities skew more toward adults; a Venn diagram would show a heavy thematic intersection point that includes organizational ice breakers, corporate retreats, group dating, etc.
Truth be told, I have a sneaking suspicion that both are approaching their end-state of viability on their own terms, as newer novelty recreation replaces it. Not being a very fun person myself—I’ve only escaped and thrown an axe once—I cannot easily predict what the replacement cutting-edge leisure activity might be. And I cannot imagine the hardships that a year of COVID imposed on the (mostly) small businesses capitalizing on these two recreational activities. For these reasons, I can only salute the proprietors of Sweet Escape Adventures for cleverly combining these two fads, which, by placing them under one roof and offering two-for-one discounts, allows them to prop up one another if/when they start to flag in popularity. And what better place to test one’s luck than a town like Harrison, a formerly rural outpost that the Cincinnati metro has only partly subsumed, since the heart of Cincy is still a good 20+ miles away? It’s a great tenant for a well-preserved but not really upscale exurban small town, where rents aren’t likely low enough to justify thrift stores (“antique” shops) but are still reasonable enough to allow some experimentation. Even better that Sweet Escapes avoids potential liability by not serving alcohol, but steers customers to a bar just down the street in another well-preserved Harrison storefront.
And, truth be told, if e-sports or board games become the next recreational fad to fill the storefronts of old commercial buildings (and I’m probably behind the times by listing them), Sweet Escape Adventures is applying exactly the right strategy to help keep them viable. Because, as we’ve learned, much like exercise fads, leisure activities rarely if ever die; they merely get repackaged in larger and shinier boxes. A bar cannot survive on a mechanical bull or karaoke alone; those are both old-school. But if it includes one or the other, along with foosball or an outdoor bocce courtyard or shuffleboard or vintage pinball, it’ll likely remain a widely marketable amenity for years to come. And maybe the real challenge is an edgy combination: karaoke while riding the mechanical bull. I expect nothing less for New Years Eve 2022.