Cipher Room – 640 King St Newtown

Turning a love of puzzles into a thriving Newtown business

Escape rooms may be the latest craze, but deciding where to open their own version was one puzzle Marise Watson and David Vella didn’t need to solve. “We’ve lived in Newtown for about 20 years,” Marise said. “It has such a lovely community feel and our kids go to school here. So when we decided to open a business, keeping it local was a no brainer.”

The Cipher Room is an adventure game, where players are locked in a room and need to solve a puzzle before their time runs out. “Escape rooms are very new to Australia,” she said. “I’m a journalist and my husband is a vet, but we’re puzzle fanatics and love making things ourselves. We wanted to create a fun and immersive gaming experience that we would want to play.”

Marise and David make everything themselves, from the puzzles and lighting design, to woodwork and electronics. “We want to support other local businesses, so we source props from second-hand and vintages stores nearby. It’s this creative, eclectic nature that sets Newtown apart and is one of the reasons we love living and working here.”

“Newtown is a wonderful place to have a small business,” she said. “We’re surrounded by people who are taking risks and doing something different. And there are so many people who are making things by hand—it takes longer to produce but it’s so much more authentic, and I think people appreciate that.”

“I also love the variety of businesses in the area,” she said. “There are some really beautiful cafes and bars with a certain energy you can’t find anywhere else, as well as food from a wide variety of backgrounds. The people are what attracted us to the area 20 years ago and it’s the reason we’re still here today.”

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