Unleash your wrath in a safe space

Sign with smiley face and the words "Smash Avenue"

By Jonathan Kope­liovich | UConn Journalism

In West Hart­ford, at the end of the iso­lat­ed side street New Park Avenue, a grungy load­ing dock of a white ware­house is lit­tered with bro­ken rotary tele­phones and blow dry­ers at the gate. A smi­ley face with green graf­fi­ti spells out “Smash Avenue.” Inside, Dono­van Ram­pas­sard shat­ters beer bot­tles with a base­ball bat to the tune of Lil Baby’s “Cal­i­for­nia Breeze.”

Some­times, you just feel like break­ing some shit in a con­trolled envi­ron­ment,” Ram­pas­sard said. 

At Smash Avenue, which was the first rage room in Con­necti­cut when it opened in 2020, peo­ple like Ram­pas­sard can pay for a 15-minute ses­sion to unleash their anger with weapons like ham­mers and shov­els on beer bot­tles, tele­vi­sion sets and furniture. 

Rage rooms have opened across the coun­try in recent years, with CNN writ­ing in 2019 that there were more than 60. In Con­necti­cut, Smash Room and Let’s Smash, opened up in ear­ly 2022 and May 2021, respectively.

Why peo­ple come to rage rooms varies. Smash Avenue employ­ee J.T. recalled a woman who came in after her hus­band passed, cry­ing while smash­ing objects and play­ing sad music. Oth­er times, J.T. has played Limp Bizk­it as bach­e­lor par­ties came in with the betrothed, say­ing that they “want to break things before a long-term commitment.”

Ram­pas­sard’s friend brought him along to Smash Avenue after a woman “stood him up.” It got Rampassard’s adren­a­line pumping. 

Par­tic­i­pants get to choose between two rooms, each of which are rough­ly the size of a small class­room. With each swing, glass thun­dered on the floor, but Smash Avenue offers no hear­ing protection. 

One of the smash rooms at Smash Avenue. (Jonathan Kopeliovich/UConn Journalism)

Jesus Lizar­do, anoth­er cus­tomer, expressed a sense of eupho­ria after tak­ing that first swing with a met­al bat. 

I thought I was going to feel some sort of relief, but I just want­ed to keep smash­ing things. I left want­i­ng to smash more,” Lizar­do lat­er wrote in an Insta­gram message.

Smash Avenue employ­ee J.T., who asked his last name not be used as he dis­cussed his men­tal health, said he has strug­gled with anger issues since ele­men­tary school and finds the smash room ther­a­peu­tic. He said he has done at least one ses­sion “every oth­er week or so.” 

When I get angry, I usu­al­ly like to keep it in. When I get to that point, I’m the one who would go and try to yell at some­body,” he said. “Some­times, it would­n’t even mat­ter what peo­ple were say­ing. It got me mad and I would just start swing­ing. I was always get­ting sus­pend­ed from school.”

Smash Avenue own­er Shaun Cham­bers told WTNH that the desire for a rage room was brought on by the pan­dem­ic. Long-term iso­la­tion from friends, the death of loved ones, and strug­gling as a father dur­ing online school­ing gave him a short fuse. He didn’t feel like he had a healthy out­let to express his anger. 

And peo­ple seem to lose their tem­per more than ever nowa­days. The New York Times report­ed on an increase of egre­gious cus­tomer behav­ior, like when one man lost his mind when the store didn’t have his favorite blue cheese. The Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ca­tion wrote in June 2022 that even minor deci­sions for adults had become over­whelm­ing due to pan­dem­ic-induced stress. 

But some men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als believe that rage rooms aren’t appro­pri­ate for anger man­age­ment in the long run. Stud­ies, like this meta-analy­sis in 2021, sug­gest that cathar­sis through aggres­sion encour­ages peo­ple to con­tin­ue to engage in aggres­sive acts. 

At South­ern Con­necti­cut State Uni­ver­si­ty, there’s a 10-week anger man­age­ment group. Dr. Sujatha Herne, the clin­ic man­ag­er coor­di­nates intake for a diverse group of clients, most of whom are con­vict­ed for vio­lent crimes and man­dat­ed by court to go. Herne said that she believes that rage room ses­sions can help rein­force the con­cept that aggres­sion is a healthy way to cope with anger in both offend­ers and the gen­er­al population. 

Depend­ing on how you grew up, there are peo­ple who might have seen that being angry caus­es their par­ents to give them atten­tion. They learned that anger is the path to results,” Herne said. “And when your solu­tion to that anger is going to a place and smash­ing stuff, you’re kind of train­ing your­self to only be able to cope with your anger in that.”

Herne said that ther­a­py, sports and med­i­ta­tion is the way to go for anger man­age­ment. Smash Avenue fans said they have oth­er strate­gies, too: Ram­pas­sard takes his anger out by lift­ing at the gym, and J.T. plays track, foot­ball and base­ball regularly.

Herne also said that rage rooms could be a refuge for women.

Women also are not giv­en the same lat­i­tude to be angry in the same way as men, who are usu­al­ly more aggres­sive. Women are expect­ed to be able to tone down that part of them­selves,” Herne said.

J.T. has noticed this trend at Smash Avenue. New York’s Rage Cage and Miami’s Smash the Rage have observed the same trend at their venues, accord­ing to news stories. 

There have also been con­cerns that rage rooms pose an envi­ron­men­tal risk. In 2019, a Cal­i­for­nia busi­ness was cit­ed for improp­er­ly dis­pos­ing of elec­tron­ic waste, since smash­ing old lap­tops and TVs could release tox­ic metals. 

Smash Avenue man­ag­er Tee Gas­ton did not return calls for com­ment, but J.T. said that Smash Avenue gets most of their mate­ri­als from mov­ing com­pa­nies, who offer junk removal ser­vices to consumers. 

The two white ship­ping con­tain­ers across the park­ing lot are usu­al­ly filled to the brim with smash­ables, but they can get so busy that they are emp­tied out in a day or two. 

We get busy around Feb­ru­ary, just in time for Valen­tine’s Day, and until the start of the aca­d­e­m­ic year in Sep­tem­ber,” J.T. said.