Almost two years ago, Donna Alexander came up with one of the weirdest business proposals to ever land on the Dallas Chamber of Commerce's desk. She wanted to charge people to stand in a room with a blunt object filled with appliances, furniture and other breakable objects and let them wail on whatever wandered into their fields of vision until it was no longer recognizable.
And since breaking stuff makes the neanderthal that lives in our DNA as giddy as an overly hairy schoolgirl whether we admit it or not, Alexander's Anger Room became one of the city's fastest growing entertainment establishments and a global "weird news" item.
Then after a year in business, The Anger Room closed up shop in the hopes of expanding, and they stayed that way for eight long months. Normally, any small business that stayed away that long would have little chance of rising from the ashes, but Alexander said her dedicated customers kept their anger in check until she could reopen this week to let them smash their last nerves away in her new Anger Room on Gould Street just a block away from Lee Harvey's.
"I just had to get back," she said from behind the desk of her new expanded location. "... I still had my customer base and just had to let them know what was going on and they continued to follow us until we could reopen."
Alexander's angry idea first came to life in her garage. She didn't do any advertising and got all of her business strictly through word of mouth. Not long after, she set up a location in a Richardson office park and offered a Groupon to the Dallas community. It quickly attracted a small base of curious customers who wanted to let their inner soccer hooligan run wild for 15 minutes. Those customers created an impressive word-of-mouth campaign for Alexander's business that launched a press campaign that no professional publicist could create no matter how much money was thrown at them.
Stories of her business popped up in almost every major news media outlet across the Internet, the country and even the world. Alexander's "Anger Room" was featured on ABC's Nightline, The Huffington Post, The Associated Press and countless other weird news blogs.
Alexander said the story reached all the way to places like Australia, Brazil and Switzerland and even earned pitches for documentaries from The Discovery Channel and The Travel Channel. She received an inquiry from the producers of A&E's Shipping Wars to ship something from her business for the show, an offer that never materialized since most of the stuff that goes into the building comes out in pieces in double packed garbage bags.
She even received offers from as far away as India to open a franchise location. Alexander said she chose to stick with the "licensing route because it's cheaper than franchising ... and it's a ton of paperwork."
Pretty soon, The Anger Room's appointment book got so full that Alexander had to turn away customers who couldn't scream "Shut up and take my money!" fast or loud enough. She said she knew she had to expand to a location that could hold more than one angry resident at a time and since she wasn't willing to risk her customers being mistaken for a breakable object by a drooling maniac with a baseball bat, she found someone who could help and closed up to open a new location.
Alexander said the unidentified investor announced that he wanted a 90-percent stake in the business just as she was about to sign on the dotted line to open a bigger location somewhere near the Frisco Rough Riders' Dr. Pepper Ballpark.
"I ran into some guy in Frisco who said he wanted to invest in the company," Alexander said. "It turned out to be all bad. He didn't just want to invest. He wanted to own it."
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Eventually, she found a place in South Dallas that could cater to her business' unique needs and this week marked the end of an eight month absence for DFW's angriest denizens who have been just aching to smash something with a heavy object without earning a felony record.
Her new location has three smash rooms that are constantly being filled and cleaned with donated electronics and furnishings for her customers. She's upgraded her arsenal from baseball bats and golf clubs to sledgehammers and crowbars. She's even earned some more national free press before her business officially opened with an MSNBC film crew shooting a "Your Business" segment on the Anger Room. (That includes some footage of yours truly smashing TVs and chairs with a sledgehammer in a pair of white coveralls that make me look like the fattest sperm in that scene with Woody Allen in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask.)
"It was a slight knockdown," she said of the hiatus, "but the good part is I didn't take a huge hit."
We can't be sure the pun wasn't intentional.