SAN DIEGO - All over sunny San Diego, tough economic times have forced people to cut back on their $4 lattes and sushi dinners.
But one new business is booming -- and ka-booming -- precisely because of frustration from the worst financial crisis to hit the United States in decades.
Welcome to Sarah's Smash Shack, where pent-up patrons can relieve stress by hurling dinnerware and bric-a-brac against a wall, as hard as they can, day and night, seven days a week.
San Diego entrepreneur Sarah Lavely charges her clients $10 and up to pulverize plates and glasses during 15-minute intervals. Music blares, clients dress in protective gear and a neon sign urges them to "Break More Stuff."
Lavely refuses to discuss her clients' problems in detail, but says that maybe they're "under financial strain, maybe they're stuck in a job they can't leave."
Insurance broker Adam DeWitt came with his wife for his birthday and took out their anger about not being able to buy a first home because the banks have frozen lending.
"It was the best $50 we've spent in the last two years, better than filling up your tank with gas, better than paying interest on your credit card," said DeWitt, 29.
San Diego may boast surf and sunshine year round, but it also has its share of black economic clouds. Its real estate market has been hit hard by the high rate of foreclosures in California, the second highest in the nation, and its unemployment rate has risen to 6.4 percent from 4.8 percent in a year.
The Shack won't let patrons drown in their sorrows -- neither drinks nor food are served. On the "menu" there are delectable glass and ceramic breakables, neatly arranged on shelves, ready to be obliterated in one of several "break rooms" outfitted with checkerboard tiles and slabs of dented steel bolted to a far wall.
One of the most popular items, "The Smash Shack House Special," mimics a rowdy Greek supper club, where diners smash plates when they enjoy the entertainment. The Smash Shack version features 15 plates for 15 minutes for $45.
The advantage to the plates, Lavely said, is that clients can write nasty little epithets on each one in a thick black marker before hurling. Guests also favor highly breakable frames (3 for $10) into which they slip photos of enemies.
The DeWitts plugged in some music by Guns n Roses, scribbled the names of banks and politicians they don't like on plates and smashed away.
"Oh boy, we smashed some plates, a couple of TV trays, some cups and mugs. My wife smashed some glass flowers," said DeWitt.
"You get mad and do something to your own stuff at home and you think to yourself, 'God, that was stupid.' But there you get a pure rush of picking up something and watching it smash and you have no remorse afterward."