BROOKINGS – Have you ever wanted to alleviate stress, find something more exciting than darts and feel like a lumberjack Viking?
Then head to Woody’s Axe Throwing, a new business that opened Jan. 7 in Brookings. The venue next to Little Caesars is a place where you can have a pint of beer and throw axes.
Woody’s is a member of the World Axe Throwing League (WATL) and has six professional-standard lanes for throwing hatchets. The target is on a four-by-four-foot square of lumber and stands about 12 feet from the throwing line.
Creator and owner Terry Nelson said that after trying it out the first time, it quickly became his dream to run and own an axe throwing bar.
“It all started this last summer. I live in Folden, Minnesota, and for the past six years I’ve worked for an ag company – our short weeks are 50 hours, our long ones are 90-100 hours – and I was just burnt out. … I wanted to find a career that would have a little more flexibility. As a side-thing, I’m a DJ, I’ve done that for 20 years and I love being a part of the public and I love doing fun activities,” Nelson said.
“And in the summer months, I’m from the Okoboji area originally, so I go back down there every chance I get, I go camping and this last summer we found an axe throwing venue in Okoboji. And after the first time I was kind of hooked on it.”
After his first experience, Nelson did a few months of research as to what it takes to start and run such a bar.
“I had every intent of starting in Mankato; it was very frustrating. With Brookings, everyone was extremely helpful. Unfortunately, seven or eight years ago, (the town of Mankato) lost three kids from alcohol poisoning; the city … (decided) that any new bar would have to have food. And it’s not so bad that you have to have food, but it’s 20% of your gross revenue,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the cost of insuring such a venue with food was prohibitively expensive.
“Like anything, there’s specialized insurance for anything, you just got to find the people to do it,” Nelson said. Woody’s is under the same insurance as over 150 axe throwing bars that are members of the WATL. For now, due to insurance policies, Woody’s exclusively sells beer.
For Nelson, Brookings was the best spot.
“I’m extremely happy to be here,” he said.
Surprisingly, very few injuries are reported at axe throwing businesses, Nelson said.
One area for concern is how the axe responds to the wall it’s being thrown at. There is the potential for the axe haft (handle) to hit the board, instead of the sharpened blade; this could cause the axe to bounce back toward the thrower.
However, Woody’s uses wooden hafts instead of rubber, fiberglass or steel, which typically bounce farther. This causes the axe to lose a lot of its momentum. As another safety precaution, each throwing lane will only hold a maximum of six participants.
“Like anything, if you take the precautions and do things right, it’s just as safe as anything else. All of our employees will go through the customers with the step-by-step, what we call our ‘Rules of Axe-pectations,’” Nelson said.
To throw axes, customers must sign a waiver. Nelson has a no-tolerance policy if anyone chooses to drink to become inebriated and would potentially cause anyone harm.
“I’ve always wanted to own a bar. But to be honest with you, I hate drunks. So my chances for success were very limited,” Nelson joked.
“And when this came up, this was a perfect fit. We want people to come here sober, have a couple social drinks, and when you’re done throwing axes and you want to come over here (to the available tables on the opposite side of the targets) and socialize and drink, that’s great. But at 10:30 p.m., it’s lights out and we go home.”
“It’s a lot of common sense and good times,” Nelson said. “You either follow the rules or we’re going to ask you to leave.”
Axe throwing bars are among the fastest-growing venues in the United States. The idea was introduced to the States only a few years ago, now there are hundreds of different axe throwing bars across the nation.
“In 2016, the first axe throwing bar was brought to the U.S. It originated in Canada,” Nelson said.
He also said that at some point in the near future, anyone who wants to reserve the lanes for events will be able to do so, and there is potential for professional axe throwing leagues to compete at Woody’s.
“I wish I had five dollars for everyone who said ‘You’re going to have an axe throwing bar? Really?!’” Nelson joked. “From a personal standpoint – outside of the axe throwing – I have been super impressed with the community of Brookings and how cool the people have been, how everyone has been extremely helpful. I don’t think I can say that enough times how I’m super impressed.”
Woody’s is open from 5-10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; from noon-10 p.m. Saturday; and from noon-6 p.m. Sunday. The employees will stay until 10:30 p.m. so customers can finish their games, but last call for alcohol and starting games is at 10 p.m.
For more information, visit Woody’s Axe Throwing on Facebook or stop by at 2508 Wilbert Court, Suite C.
Contact Matthew Rhodes at firstname.lastname@example.org.