BYRON CENTER — It’s hard for Break Room Therapy owner Dawn Levian to tell whether she is getting more customers by word of mouth since opening two years ago or because people are looking for an outlet for pandemic-induced stress.
Break Room Therapy is designed to be a cathartic and safe outlet for people to relieve stress by breaking glass and electronic items without having to destroy their own possessions and deal with the cleanup, Levian said.
Customers write words on objects before destroying them, as well as on a whiteboard on which people can write their emotions before and after their breaking session.
“You see the words ‘COVID,’ ‘stress’ or ‘uneasy’ a lot because everything is so up in the air right now,” Levian said. “The majority of the feelings people say they have are anxiety and stress.”
Break Room Therapy opened in May 2019. Levian was still building up the business when COVID-19 hit, making it challenging to acquire pandemic relief aid. The business didn’t qualify for initial Paycheck Protection Program loans because of losses on its 2019 taxes, Levian said.
“We already started 2020 with a little bit of a loss because we were just getting started,” Levian said. “We were just starting to build momentum and were getting some customers when the lockdown order happened. The months we were closed down were definitely a little scary.”
When Break Room was able to reopen at limited capacity in its original 1,000-square-foot space on 76th Street SW, it could only allow one session at a time. This led Levian to look for a bigger space to grow the business.
“It’s a scary and dumb thing to do a move during a pandemic, but we didn’t feel like we could do anything more in that space and our lease was coming due,” Levian said.
The business reopened in January after moving to 7988 Clyde Park Ave. SW in Byron Center, expanding from two to five session rooms and creating more space for shelving and inventory, Levian said.
The buildout was expected to be a $24,000 project but grew to $32,000 because of a lumber shortage caused by the pandemic, but the new space meets Break Room’s needs, Levian said.
“It was one of those things we knew we had to do,” Levian said. “We knew in order for the business to properly get off the ground we had to move to a new location. It’s a huge leap of faith, and we hope it pays off.”
Levian said customers have traveled from Battle Creek and Traverse City as well as from Illinois.
“The way people look when they walk in to when they walk out of a session is very transforming to me,” she said. “Holding something in does cause stress, and people don’t really want to go and destroy their own stuff. It’s not as cathartic to break something you have to clean up. Here they can just walk away afterward and they’re in a safe, contained area.”
Levian said Break Room Therapy serves an important mental health need for many people, but it can also just be a fun activity for people looking to try something new.
“Though the majority of our customers are dealing with something, you don’t have to be going through anything to get something out of it,” Levian said.