So it’s the holiday season – joy, excitement, love, and peace fill the air. Well, maybe not entirely. For many of us, the holidays bring a sense of stress and common seasonal depression. Some pent-up anger and resentment might surface this time of year. Whatever your frustration, Kari and Kelly Barrack have created a solution for everyone in the area who may benefit from “therapeutic destruction.”
Kari and Kelly Barrack are the co-owners of Havoc House in downtown Waynesboro. For those who may not be familiar with it, the Havoc House has everything from a rage room where participants can destroy items like dishes with baseball bats to ax throwing, where you can test your target skills. Come in, release your anger, and get the stress of life off your shoulders. Even if you aren’t feeling stressed or angry, the Barracks want the community to know you can still come in and benefit from the fun of blowing off some steam.
The inspiration for Havoc House originated with Kari, who opened up to us about her mental health and how this business began. “Honestly, I struggle inside myself. I’m bipolar and ADD. And when I was a kid, my father always tried sending me to therapy, and I didn’t want to open up to anybody. I didn’t want to open up to a stranger. I’d rather take my aggression out, beat a tree, or tear something up. So I figured other people couldn’t talk to somebody and release whatever they feel they need to release. So I opened this so other people can have some type of release off their shoulders,” she shares. Some studies show that, sometimes, physical activity can positively influence our mental health in certain situations. Kelly adds that it’s often that, between children on the spectrum and those who may get bullied at school, the Havoc House offers a healthy release of their emotions while in a safe environment.
Kelly says that Kari inspired her entrepreneurial spirit. “I struggle with some mental health issues as well, and to be able to offer something like this, we love to have customers come in that want to feel like they’re breaking the rules to break dishes and stuff. You don’t have to be angry, but to see the people that come in that, truly and honestly, it’s therapy for them really, really is a good feeling to give back to the community,” she says.
Of course, owning a business comes with its challenges. For the first year and a half, Carrie and Kelly worked full-time jobs and ran the Havoc House. “If you don’t have the energy and drive to get a business going, you better get there because it ain’t going to put the brakes on for you. You better keep moving and trucking, or you’ll never make it. If you don’t try, you’re never going to know.” The couple often told people they worked “10 days a week” – Monday through Friday at their full-time jobs and Havoc House Wednesday through Sunday. Luckily, now Carrie and Kelly rely solely on this business; “no more stress of having to work a full-time job, more time with the family, going on vacations, etc.”
The Havoc House opened in December 2020. The original plan was to open in April 2020, but Kari and Kelly had to push back the opening because of the pandemic. “It was actually a good turnout. I mean, it was an election year. Everybody was stressed over COVID. So it was a good turnout to be first open in December of 2020 after all that,” Kari explained. As for the choice of the location being downtown Waynesboro, Carrie and Kelly both originally lived in the (once) small town. “It’s a small community, and we’re the center of all the college towns – UVA, JMU, Radford, Mary Baldwin, so we figured we’d stay in the center and bring everybody into Waynesboro,” Kari says.
The couple has seen individuals aged three to sixty-three enjoy the benefits of Havoc House. To get started, each participant gets a safety rundown. “We give everyone the rundown and show them how to throw them [the axes] properly and just make sure they’re doing the proper techniques not to throw it incorrectly or hurt themselves. So we keep an eye on them and ensure they’re not humming that thing like a baseball,” Kelly explains. The Havoc House also offers a five-minute rage room package for people who may want to test the waters, but most of the time, people want more time in the room. Kari and Kelly advise participants to contemplate the package times to ensure you pick the right amount of “therapy” you need because getting enveloped in the fun is so easy to do at the Havoc House; it’s almost impossible for the time not to fly by!
Of course, owning a business comes with its challenges. For the first year and a half, Kari and Kelly worked full-time jobs and ran the Havoc House. “If you don’t have the energy and drive to get a business going, you better get there because it ain’t going to put the brakes on for you. You better keep moving and trucking, or you’ll never make it. If you don’t try, you’re never going to know.” The couple often told people they worked “ten days a week” – Monday through Friday at their full-time jobs and Havoc House Wednesday through Sunday. Luckily, now Kari and Kelly really have grown Havoc House to the point where it’s their full-time occupation, a wish list milestone for every entrepreneur who struggles to balance a full-time job with their entrepreneurial dream.
With the holidays approaching quickly, consider taking out the stress at the Havoc House in downtown Waynesboro, or, this could be the best gift yet- invite your friends, family, teammates, or coworkers to the best, most smashing Christmas party ever!
For any questions, visit the Havoc House website at havochouseva.com. That’s where you will find information about booking a session and contact information to call or email. Everything you need to know is on their website, including age restrictions and safety requirements.
To learn more about Kari, Kelly, and Havoc House listen to their Waynesboro at Work podcast episode on Spotify or watch their episode on the Visit Waynesboro YouTube channel.