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Interview with PanIQ Room’s Joe Flores

This week, we’re thrilled to chat with the inimitable Joe Flores, PanIQ Room’s longtime construction partner and problem-solver extraordinaire. His work has been a core part of every PanIQ Room location for the past eight years, with many thousands of players enjoying the escape rooms he built.

We hired Joe for his boundless creativity and multidimensional skillset, but we value his stories (even the made-up ones), enthusiasm, and spirited personality just as much. Take it from us: there’s no escaping Joe’s good humor. You’ll see.

In our recent interview with James from Monster City Studios, he said you’re a great guy! He also mentioned a “bad gambling habit.” Is that part true?

No, I don’t have a gambling problem. It’s just that I’ve decoded the slot machines. Same with all the games at PanIQ Room. James is just jealous because I never lose.

How did you get started with PanIQ Room?

I responded to a job posting on Thumbtack. I believe it said something like, “looking for someone who can build a custom bookcase that can be opened to access ANOTHER room, also looking for someone who can do some custom painting, and also someone to install a caged room…”

I said: “I’m your guy!”

First I made the rolling bookcase. There was also a futuristic science room that was missing something to complete its look. So I painted a huge, black-and-white swirl on the door. Ákos [Gabossy, CEO of PanIQ Room] asked if I’d help build the next PanIQ Room in San Francisco. And that’s how I got started.

And now it’s eight years later, and PanIQ couldn’t exist without you.

When Ákos mentioned I’ve been a big part of the company’s growth, at first I was at a loss for words. It means a lot to me to be acknowledged as such a big part of PanIQ Room.

Do you know how many PanIQ Room projects you’ve worked on by now?

I’ve worked on 16 projects, including MagIQ Room [sister company of PanIQ Room] and Two Bit Circus [a franchise partner of PanIQ in Downtown LA] buildouts.

Which was your favorite project? Which is your favorite theme?

That’s tough. When you love what you do, it’s hard to say one is more special than the other. There are memorable moments in all of them.

But if I had to choose, it would be Washington. I really enjoy constructing caves, and the Prehistoric Cave theme was the most awesome cave I’ve ever built. The color scheme was amazing. My custom painting is more than just a paint job, it’s a combination of multiple talents. It’s about HOW you apply the paint to create that special look. Details make all the difference, and texture plays a big part as well. I do something a little different to everyone of my creations.

My favorite theme? Wizards. It has a little of all I love doing, although the Haunted Mansion and Asylums were just about as fun to build out.

PanIQ is going to build its new flagship unit in Los Angeles early this year. It’s a real homecoming. Are you ready for the new challenge?

Ha, I laugh at this challenge! I’ve been ready… Hell, my doctor said I was born holding a hammer! I vow to do my best work EVER! James from Monster is going to bow before me!!! Everything you’ve heard from the gods or read in books about me is true. Don’t paniq — Joe is in the house. Let’s do this!

We’re ready too! So, who is your favorite person in the PanIQ Room Team?

This may come as a shocker, but no one talks bad about my boy Erno [Kartnik, Regional Manager at PanIQ]. Sorry Ákos! Although if I can get a vacation package from you, well, anyone can be bought….

Please share your funniest moment with PanIQ Room.

There are several!

During the Houston project, my brother Gerald got me a cake for my birthday, and he and Patrik [Strausz, Co-founder of PanIQ Room] sang “Happy Birthday” to me. When I asked where the knife was, Gerald said, “HEY! I bought the cake, isn’t that good enough?” No knife, and no plates either. So what did I do? I got out my Sawzall. It’s a cutting tool, like a giant electric knife. I put the longest blade onto it…. and cut a board into squares for plates. I used smaller blades for utensils.

While working in Chicago, I needed a couple of gallons of paint, some lumber, and my lunch. The only problem: I was riding a bicycle. So I duct-taped all of these items to the bike and rode it all the way back. Everyone was laughing at me, but I got the job done!

In Austin, another crew was doing construction in the space beside ours. I needed an extra door for an opening I’d made, and by pure luck, I found one right outside. So I installed it and painted it. Well, a few hours later, the construction crew came by to ask if we’d seen a door they’d just bought. I said no. Patrick stared at me and said, “Joe, tell me that’s not the door you just installed…”

Hey, you snooze, you lose. Here I thought the gods had answered my wish…

You have incredible stories, but some are a little hard to believe. Now it’s time to confess: is every puzzle piece of your past true?

Everything you’ve heard about Joe is true. I’m serious about my work, I take extreme pride in what I do, and I can’t wait to build another [escape room]. Everyone who works with me knows that if I’m there, everything’s gonna be all right. I’ll always make sure that the work gets done.

What if you’d never met us? How would you have spent the past eight years?

Before PanIQ Room I’d purchased a few properties, being in construction, and I was working on a small house-building project. I wanted to be the first to make a house affordable – kinda like buying a car. So that’s probably what I would be doing, building what people today call “tiny houses.”

Ákos, PanIQ Room’s CEO, always says (behind your back) that you’re the smartest American he knows. Do you know why?

I think it’s more about how I can make things come out right. They give me photos, my imagination brings them to life. Also because I’m up for any challenge.

But I want to give credit where credit is due. On just about all of my buildouts, I’ve had the help of my two brothers Gerald and Danny. I thank them for putting up with me. Sometimes it’s hard to take orders from a brother, but we’ve come a long way. And thanks to my father for being there as well on a few jobs.

When are you finally coming to Hungary?

Hopefully after the Los Angeles project, I will go home to Hungry to visit everyone. I don’t think of PanIQ as a place of work; I think of it as being with my family. Love you all guys and thanks for this honor of an interview. You can always count on me to be there.

PanIQ Escape Room Blog