The exterior walls of 14 Worcester Street won’t be deep sea-blue and decorated with spine-chilling underwater monsters for much longer. After three seasons of operation in Ocean City, the OC Screams haunted house has moved out, and a much brighter, cheerier attraction is taking its place: the immersive, Instagram-worthy, front camera-friendly, Selfie Fantasy.
Though the inside of the building now looks like an empty warehouse and the outside will need several coats of fresh paint, Selfie Fantasy’s owners — husband and wife duo Stacey and Mark Warner and their partner, Jason Tillman — hope to open their doors by Memorial Day weekend, after a soft opening the first weekend in May.
“It’s going to be an opportunity for guests to come in and take selfies, take pictures with their friends, just have fun,” Stacey said.
She described the attraction as “an Instagrammer’s dream come true.”
The concept is simple: Different selfie sections, similar to photo booths but larger and open-concept, line the walls of the first floor. The sections, of varying themes and sizes, form a U-shape that will direct the flow of traffic as guests stop in each spot to take silly photos with their family and friends.
There’s no limit to how much time guests can spend exploring Selfie Fantasy as long as they’re courteous to others and keep the flow of traffic moving along, but guests will likely spend at least an hour inside, Mark said.
After they weave through the first floor, guests will eventually make their way upstairs, where they’ll be greeted by the attraction’s finale: a 20,000-ball ballpit, the final photo-op before they exit from the second floor.
The idea will definitely appeal to a specific (i.e. teenage) demographic, Stacey said, but there will be stations for the younger audience, too. Each section will be decorated differently — some with giant high heel props, or sharks, or thrones for a king and queen — but the only theme tying anything together, Stacey said, is “silly.”
“It’s going to be really colorful and playful down here, but upstairs it’s going to be a little darker, a little urban, edgier but still family-friendly,” she said. “Since we want to appeal to a lot of different people, we’re kind of a hodgepodge of different opportunities for people to have fun.”
A variety of themed selfie-friendly pop-up shops, from Candytopia in Atlanta to the Color Factory in New York City, have been gaining popularity and making headlines in recent years; they inspired Selfie Fantasy’s co-owner Jason Tillman, who first came to Stacey and Mark with the idea last summer.
No one wants to experience Fear of Missing Out on vacation, after all. That may be why Austin, Texas’ FOMO Factory has done so well. Like Selfie Fantasy, The FOMO Factory uses immersive art, or three-dimensional, site-specific installations, to engage customers and provide the ultimate selfie experience.
However, unlike Selfie Fantasy, The FOMO Factory was a temporary pop-up that opened in September 2018 and closed the following January, its next pop-up location TBA.
Ocean City’s seasonality makes the destination perfect for a pop-up museum, providing Selfie Fantasy with about 120 days in-season to make their mark on the town. But, as long as their first season goes well, they’ll re-open next summer. They might even open for select weekends during the off-season, utilizing their upstairs party/event space as needed.
First, before any guests can pour in with Instagram open and VSCO filters at the ready, the art inside and outside the attraction must be completed. The outside can’t be painted until temperatures reach a consistent 50-degree mark; then it’ll get a fresh coat of paint and a mural on the street-facing wall that will serve as an outdoor selfie spot, providing guests a profile pic-friendly backdrop even before they go inside and get their tickets.
Inside, local artists, including T.C. Studios owners Jaime and Alexandra Jacobs, have been commissioned to paint fun, colorful backdrops and even an Ocean City-themed mural on the wall.
In addition to offering their artistic talents, local leaders and business owners have lent the Warners plenty of help in getting their new business, the first of its kind in Ocean City, off the ground.
“Everyone we’ve been in contact with down here has been great, it’s just so many nice people,” Stacey said.
She named the people at City Hall, Ocean City Development Corporation’s Board of Directors and Executive Director Glenn Irwin, and Larry Layton of Layton’s Family Restaurant, among many others, as local leaders who have been instrumental in Selfie Fantasy’s development.
“What I’m learning is, it’s kind of a slower pace down here — people just seem to be a little more relaxed,” she said. “These people have been here for years and they all are experts. They want us to succeed, they really do.”
Artists who are interested in working with Selfie Fantasy can contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.