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Laid-off software engineer offers 'cheap therapy' and chance to break stuff

Sunday, May 10, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

LEE'S SUMMIT — Laid-off. Bills piling up for his family of four. A stress-induced argument with his wife.

Paul Brown was so steaming mad he could throw something.

So he did.

The drinking tumbler shattered against the wall, notching it but at least not going through the sliding glass door inches away.

Brown looked at the ruins and felt good. And then he felt inspired.

The former software engineer opened Smash-N-Shatter on Thursday in downtown Lee's Summit to provide "cheap therapy" to other frustrated folks.

Demonstrating the service, the seemingly mild-mannered Brown — a weekly churchgoer who sports a tiny cross earring — donned a camouflage flight suit, pulled on rubber boots and removed his glasses to slip on a paintball mask. As the shirt and tie disappear, so does the mild manner.

"I go Rambo here," he says, taking a look in the full-length mirror. "Woohoooo! This is fun."

In the "Smash Room," Metallica is blasting on the CD player: "Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire!"

Brown scribbles the words "work sucks" on a dark blue plate and then forcefully flings it at the red ring shooting target.

Boom! It explodes against the steel wall.

He flings a few more. Boom! Boom! Boom!

But maybe you really, really need to hit something?

Brown heads across the hall to the "Shatter Room." He draws a sad stick man on a drywall piece set up against a mattress, doodling "TPS reports here" for all the meaningless work that office employees do just to keep managers happy.

Whap! A baseball bat smashes into the drywall, again and again. In case that's not yet enough, he produces a hammer and finishes it off.

Somewhere out there, a software production manager inexplicably feels the hair raise on the back of his neck.

Brown said that friends who have tried it were timid at first, probably with Mom's mantra of "don't break it" running through their heads. But they loosened up after one or two smash-ups.

Several people strolling by on the quiet downtown street Thursday stopped to peer in the windows. Some patrons at area bars have promised to stop by this weekend after a few brewskis.

Cheaper than therapy, says Brown, but that might depend on just how frustrated you are. Prices range from $14.95 to fling a dozen shot glasses to $69.95 for a full package including both Shatter and Smash rooms and 16 dishes. Heart-shaped plates are available to celebrate a breakup, and patrons can bring in 10 or more of their own breakable items for $1 a shot — including cleanup.

Brown got his first customer early Thursday afternoon. She had just been fired from a day-care center. She split a shot glass package with a friend, saving some money for gas.

Francisco Matos made the trip from Kansas City just to check it out as a possible Mother's Day present.

"We lost my dad a year ago and just recently she said, 'I just want to break stuff,' " Matos said of his mother. "So I hope it will make her laugh, make her cry."


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