A majestic, purple unicorn adorns one of the walls of Kristin Garcia’s new shop.
But this is no doe-eyed, cartoonish, cute unicorn. He has the face and presence of a strong warrior. This creature is beautiful, but not to be messed with.
“He’s just showing the power of what a little balance… can do for your whole world,” Garcia explained.
“Balance” is a reoccurring theme in Garcia’s new business — Purge, Love, and Peace, located in downtown Chandler.
Across the room from the unicorn are the words “hate,” “taxes,” and “hell” spray-painted on the wall. The ugly words purposefully contrast with the mystical unicorn.
It’s all meant to symbolize the yin-yang duality that encompasses daily life, Garcia said. If one wants to see the light, they may have to walk through the dark.
If one wants to be with the unicorns, one might have to unleash some rage.
Garcia’s business lets someone do that in a safe and controlled environment.
Her shop is known as a rage room, a concept that’s been recently popping up throughout the country.
It’s believed to have started in Japan about 10 years ago before hundreds of rage rooms started opening in Europe and the United States.
One opened in Tempe a couple years ago and another opened in Tucson earlier this year. Garcia believes she’s the first to come to Chandler.
The essential idea of these rooms is to let paying guests break, smash and destroy things with no consequences. They’re given a set amount of time to break as many liquor bottles and dinner plates as they can.
Garcia’s business follows this same formula, except she really wants her clients to find some harmony through their experience. This is why her rage room is called Purge, Love, and Peace.
“Those are the stages that you need to do to find some sort of balance in your life,” Garcia said.
There are contradictions found throughout the store on Oregon Street. Garcia’s bathroom is covered in flashy, attention-grabbing stickers: one advocates for socialism, while another supports capitalism.
One sticker displays a stoic Barack Obama. Another is a flattering portrait of President Donald Trump.
The aesthetic is not trying to take a political stand on any issue. Rather, it attempts to resemble the chaos that goes with living in a tribalistic society, where lines are constantly being drawn and citizens feel pressured to pick a side.
When guests enter the shop, they walk down a long, shadowy hallway that Garcia wants to feel almost like the corridor of an insane asylum.
Clients are dressed in jumpsuits, gloves and face-shields before they’re escorted into one of three rooms.
A video plays on a television, advising guests of the rules for playing in the rage room. Then they’re given 20 minutes to break whatever they want.
“They can just go to town, do what they need to do.” Garcia.
For $30, the guest receives a basket of breakable goods that they can smash with baseball bats, golf clubs or hammers. They can upgrade to premium breakables like toilets or flat-screen TV sets for a little more money.
The shop will also customize to special requests from clients.
For example, if a guest hates their job and wants to release some steam, they can replicate an office setting inside the rage room and let the guest play out a destructive fantasy.
“We can kind of customize to whatever it is that is irritating, frustrating or weighing you down that you need to get off your chest,” Garcia said.
She recalled a recent guest who had been battling cancer and just gotten a divorce. He had feared his illness would take away his mobility, so Garcia let him bring in a wheelchair and walker: two objects that had come to symbolize his pain and anxiety.
They also printed his ex-wife’s face on some plates.
“He just went in there and crushed everything,” Garcia said.
The experience may be therapeutic for some of Garcia’s guests, but the shop itself has turned into a place for her to deal with her own feelings.
The Tempe native said she encountered a troubling conflict while putting the business together.
She had hired a contractor named Jack to help her build the rage room. But the guy turned out to be a crook and took her money.
Garcia couldn’t get over the betrayal she felt, so she found a way to discretely get back at him.
Written on the walls of the shop’s bathroom, amid the clutter of various political stickers, are the phrases “Jack Sucks” and “Jack is a Thief.”
It’s a bit of an inside joke the guests won’t pick up on. But shaming Jack in this way brought Garcia some peace.
“It’s kind of a way for me to move forward,” she said.
Garcia plans to launch an “I Hate Jack” giveaway campaign next month that lets guests receive free breakables.
Mental health experts have had varying opinions on whether rage rooms are a good way to deal with stress.
Many have said they can be a fun activity for healthy individuals, but wouldn’t classify rage rooms as a clinical form of therapy.
In a 2018 column, Dr. Kevin Bennett of Pennsylvania State University wrote rage rooms should not be considered a long-term strategy for dealing with anxiety and frustration.
Garcia thinks there’s a self-gratifying thrill to letting loose and releasing some aggression. The laughter and joy she’s seen her guests express is contagious, Garcia said.
It’s all about living in the moment and learning not to take things so seriously, she added.