Axe throwing!? In the event that you haven’t heard, axe throwing is a competitive indoor sport. Beyond lumberjack competitions which still abound in North America, axe throwing in urban tavern settings took off in Canada about a decade ago. The activity is quickly catching on in trendy neighborhood venues across the country. And now in Detroit, the sport is taking on a life of its own in Ferndale, Michigan, with the opening of Detroit Axe.
Tuned to the neighborhood, located on the second floor of The Corner – Grill, Bar and Game Room at 344 W. Nine Mile, Detroit Axe is the first dedicated axe-throwing venue in metropolitan Detroit – the creation of restaurateurs Geoff Kretchmer and Brian Siegel. Collectively, Geoff and Brian own and operate several entertainment-based businesses including Star Trax Event Productions and Joe Dumars Fieldhouse and the former Local Kitchen and Bar which they recently converted to the new concept.
What is it?
A bar game? An insane pastime? A new obsession? Crazy as it seems, axe throwing is a well-grounded, time-honored skill with roots in ancient Celtic warfare (think Braveheart) and wilderness survival (think Daniel Boone). Think nights out with friends, company outings, bachelor parties or drop-in nights just for fun, food and something just a little wild.
Similar to darts, axe throwing is played indoors with and against other members of a group. Individuals throw 1.5-pound hatchets at wooden targets marked with a bullseye and score points based on where on the target they stick the axe.
“We were searching around the country for something new, an entertainment and dining concept with a heightened kind of energy,” said Geoff. “We were in Washington DC, talking about another opportunity, when we first heard about axe throwing. Our first reaction was no way, that’s crazy! Then we tried it in London, Ontario. Within five throws we were hooked. Like darts, bowling and any other sport that gets your juices flowing, axe throwing can be super competitive and played in leagues. Anyone can play. The sport is easy to learn and has loads of appeal to men and women alike. You don’t need a lot of strength to throw an axe in a perfect rotation and land the target. In fact, my 79-year old mother came in one night to try it, threw 10 hatchets and loved it.”
Sounds fun, but is it safe?
On the question of safety, Geoff is all business.“Safety is our number one priority,” he emphasizes. “We never forget: we are throwing sharp objects here. As the owners of the establishment, we have to be extraordinarily disciplined in every interaction we have.”
Enumerating the ways Detroit Axe keeps players safe, Geoff continues:
- The format of the game and the construction of the throwing lanes are all focused around the safety of the participants. Target boards are arranged in lanes, called alleys, with two lanes in each alley. Lanes are separated by fencing, with rules and safety standards strictly enforced.
- Each competitor throws in his/her own individual lane and competes side-by-side with another competitor. Players throw and retrieve their axes at the same time. Players don’t step to retrieve until their axe is completely silent.
- For each pair of throwing competitors, there’s an Event Axe Master, fully trained to coach players on throwing the axe and the fine points of the game, lead and keep score in tournaments and to fully supervise competition to ensure the safety of all players.
- Groups up to 12 people can play in a single alley, but only the two active competitors throwing at that time are allowed within the throwing area. All other competitors are required to wait in the safety zone behind the lanes.
What’s on the menu?
Conceived as a neighborhood gathering place to kick back and play, Detroit Axe also accommodates guests with a variety of classic bar games including pinball machines and throw-back arcade games.
Downstairs at The Corner, a full-service bar and restaurant offers casual, but well-crafted fare featuring plates to share – like brisket sliders, cornbread skillet and shrimp tempura; classic sandwiches and burgers, hearty salads and delicious veggie options; and full entrees like rib eye steak, rainbow trout and brick chicken. Stand-outs for dessert include a great brownie sundae, blackberry buckle and home-made mini donuts made on the spot and served with six dipping options.
The restaurant itself also includes an entertainment component, featuring a game “sommelier” as a personal guide to “nights of 1,000 board games” on hand. Guests are encouraged to stay and play for a full evening’s entertainment.
“Ferndale is the perfect community to introduce Detroit Axe as well as our neighborhood restaurant, The Corner – Grill, Bar and Game Room,” said Geoff, “Both concepts are designed for groups and couples looking for casual comfort food and a fun night out. And once you try axe throwing, you will be surprised at how addictive and challenging it can be.”
Stay sharp, my friends, stay sharp . . .
Costs to play are 40 per person for a two-hour tournament, with walk-ins available for $20 an hour. Events require a minimum of 6 participants and a maximum of 36. Each arena accommodates 12 throwers.
For information on large group packages or to reserve an event at Detroit Axe, visit DetroitAxe.com or call 248-890-3624.