Axe-throwing businesses are erupting in popularity across the country, especially on the East Coast, and now a group of Missoula entrepreneurs are getting in on the fun.
Lumberjaxe Throwing Co. is set to open in March at 812 Toole Ave., Suite B, beneath the Toole Crossing apartments. Gentry Branz, his wife Megan Branz and their business partner Steve Chansler have hired a local contracting crew to do a full remodel of the space. They’ve finally got their city permits, unusual insurance, safety equipment, soundproofing and wooden targets ready to go.
“It’s exciting,” Gentry Branz said. “It’s a fairly new sport that’s taken off. It originated in Canada and then spread pretty quickly to the East Coast about three years ago."
For example, there are 15 axe-throwing locations in Philadelphia alone.
"The company we’re modeling the design off, if you will, they have almost 40 locations and started only two and a half years ago," he continued. "They’re just blowing up like crazy.”
Branz is originally from Salt Lake City but his wife was born and raised here.
“Right about the time we decided to move back up here, we ran across a location in Salt Lake and got up here and realized it would be a good thing for Missoula,” he explained.
Last spring they built a mobile axe-throwing trailer and noticed that it was extremely popular. They’ll still run that when the weather’s nice for parties and corporate events.
Inside their new location, there will be nine 14- and 15-foot throwing lanes, each surrounded by chain link fencing for safety. After a safety talk, throwers can throw to their hearts content at large targets on the wall.
"There's different ways of scoring and games people can play," Megan Branz explained. "And we'll have league nights."
They will be members of the World Axe Throwing League so league members can see how they stack up against the best of the best and perhaps go to regional competitions.
This will be the first axe-throwing business in Montana, and Megan said the popularity of logging sports here means there might be some good competition.
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"We started just by throwing at rounds in our backyard," she said.
Gentry Branz said the sport has a great safety record. Based on the experience of two of the larger companies, "other than a few minor injuries by somebody mishandling the head, there’s been no major injuries like somebody getting hit in the head or losing a finger,” he said.
“Anybody that comes in gets a quick safety briefing how to handle it. When people come in you get that tutorial with an axe coach. I’m one myself; my partner is the other.”
The axe heads themselves aren’t very sharp, he explained.
“The point is the momentum; the rotation is what drives itself into the target,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be a very sharp axe. Even by the touch it’s not very sharp.”
During regular business hours, anyone over 18 can throw and those age 16 and 17 can throw with the signature of a parent or guardian. The business will host family nights twice a month where younger children can throw with smaller axes.
“Doing the mobile you get a lot of kids that are jacked, they want to do it,” he explained. “It’s just a lot more hands on when we do the family nights. It's not hard, but there is technique to it. It’s kind of the stance that makes or breaks you.”
Pricing will be $15 an hour for groups of two or more and $30 an hour for a single thrower. There can only be one thrower per lane at a time.
Branz, a local insurance agent, said they had to find a special broker to get insurance for the company. They also looked at multiple locations and had to go through “hurdle after hurdle” to get approved by the city. But they’re finally ready to go, and the walls will be vibration and sound proof.
He said he thinks Missoulians will have a lot of fun trying out a new activity, and he’s confident there won’t be any mishaps.
“I’m sure one day we’re going to have somebody grab it by the head and get a minor cut,” he said. “But we’re doing everything we can to make sure people do the right thing.”
The place will probably be open seven days a week to start, including late into the evening, but no firm hours have been set. For more information visit online at https://www.lumberjaxethrowingco.com/.