Someone just hit their target at Wild Axe, an axe throwing bar in Beavercreek. Wild Axe opened this summer, and is one of the newest in a spate of such bars that has popped up over the last several years. Each of Wild Axe’s 11 throwing lanes ends in a large wooden target, where guests can practice hitting their marks during hour-long sessions. As they do so, they can have beer, wine and liquor. It may seem like a misstep to combine alcohol and weaponry, but co-owner Daniel Huiet says that each 15-foot lane is reinforced with steel cages on each side to protect from errant throws. And he says that guests have been diligent about following safety rules so far.
"I think people know that this is kind of like a gun range," says Huiet. "We’re not going to tolerate any nonsense, so to speak, and we say that right in the beginning, before they throw."
And patrons aren’t just turned loose to fling sharp objects around either — each group is paired with an axe master.
"That person is going to show you the techniques of how to throw, walk you through the games and then help correct your throws and guide you through the experience," says Huiet.
One axe master is store manager Axel (he says that’s his on-the-job stage name). Axel was trained by Daniel, as all the axe masters have been. Though he is a master of the axe, he credits his position to something other than his axe throwing prowess.
"I think it was the beard that got me the job here, honestly."
"That actually gives him a lot of credibility and Thor-like strength," jokes Huiet.
Axel’s 18-inch beard is aesthetically consistent with Wild Axe’s rugged interior design, which is dominated by dark-stained wood and steel — and, of course, those large wooden targets. Axel says that one of the bar’s largest overhead costs is the replacement of the targets which, unlike your standard bar dartboard, tend to get destroyed pretty quickly.
"We can replace certain boards, probably about four or five times a week."
As axe throwing bars have continued to open across the country, millennials have been cited — and occasionally blamed — by news outlets as being the chief clientele, because the bars are unusual, a little dangerous and eminently Instagrammable. Axel says Wild Axe does get its fair share of millennials through the door, but that guests tend to be pretty varied in age.
"You know, you have to be at least 15 to throw here with a parent or guardian, so we’ve had 15 and 16 year old birthday parties. I’ve also had 85-year-old couples come in and throw. I definitely think it’s quite empowering, no matter who you are."
Axel was trained to throw by Daniel, as all the bar’s axe masters have been. Daniel says he visited seven axe throwing bars in Ohio and nearby states before embarking on his own, and it was at those bars that Daniel himself learned how to properly throw an axe. Well, here and on the, "Good ol’ internet!"
Axel says the axe masters often spend their off-hours in the shop, perfecting their craft, and, of course, having a few drinks. Daniel and Axel played a round of a game called “blue dot" where players in opposing lanes compete to see who can be the first two score two hits on the target’s blue dot.
The two invited me to try my hand at throwing as well. I had to sign a waiver, as all players do, and they lent me a pair of closed-toed shoes. Axel gave me some quick pointers on one-handed throwing - essential, as I was also holding a microphone.
"Fully extend it out in front of you," Axel instructed. "So that is the key to the one-handed throw, the lean-in and following through with your throw to keep the arm moving the whole time."
It took a few tries for me to even get the axe to stick in the board, but on my fifth try I finally did it.
Daniel and Axel say that, over and above the success of the business, they’re both devoted to axe throwing because it’s fun, and it sure beats the sedentary quality of a lot of jobs.
"I’ve just generally been a much happier person since this place has opened," says Axel. "That’s one reason why I stay here after work and get here early and throw. It kinda keeps me chipper."
"You can’t complain," says Huiet. "We have beer, wine, liquor, axes. I think it’s all here."
This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.