ST. JOSEPH — Austin Bock has an axe to grind.
A couple weeks ago Bock opened Lumberjax Urban Axe Throwing beneath his Bound For Freedom store in downtown St. Joseph.
The Stevensville resident has been running his Bound For Freedom business for six years – five years at the 404 State St. physical location – but the idea for his axe-throwing business stemmed from an injury-plagued semester of college.
After breaking his leg skiing, Bock found himself sitting for long periods of time in his dorm room. Through these bouts of boredom, Bock began buying random items online that included throwing knives, miniature hatchets and sharpened playing cards.
With the help of a few friends, they bought insulation board and began throwing everything they could at the wall. The idea to create a business based on this didn’t hit Bock until last year.
“I was flipping through ESPN and saw the pros throwing,” Bock said. “I noticed a lot of the bigger cities had axe-throwing locations open up and wanted to bring that to the area.”
The idea popped into his head last fall, but he didn’t begin to pursue the option until this April.
Bock looked at the store’s basement, which was only being used to house inventory for his other business. So Bock finished the basement’s buildout through May and spent the majority of June securing insurance and creating the company’s logo.
“We decided to go for it because I had the feeling if we didn’t do it now, somebody would jump on it,” Bock said.
The set up
When Bock founded Lumberjax, he chose to affiliate his business with the World Axe Throwing League.
Upon further inspection through the WATL website, Bock found an easy way to secure insurance for the business since the organization partners with an insurance agency that helps axe-throwing locations start up.
“That was my biggest fear going into this,” Bock said. “I didn’t know where to look.”
Lumberjax uses lightweight conventional hatchets that can weigh up to 2.75 pounds. The axe head can’t be longer than 4.5 inches. Even the targets have specifications as far as how high off the ground they must be.
He uses five 2-by-10 boards to create the targets, which he changes out after they’ve been used to a certain point.
Some of the safety measures Lumberjax has instituted include the installation of a guard cage and a wood chip pit that prevents axes from bouncing back. Bock said they will also have a coach on site at all times for tips and pointers.
An axe grinder is located onsite for when the hatchets begin to lose their sharpness. However, Bock said they try to sharpen them every other day.
No alcohol is allowed downstairs and coaches will be there to make sure no one who is inebriated can participate. Anyone wearing open-toed shoes are also restricted from throwing.
Anyone under 18 must have a parent/guardian present. Bock said for every two underage throwers, there needs to be one parent with them.
“As coaches, we don’t want to have to babysit,” he said.
Bock said there is nothing more satisfying than sticking the target. But his favorite part of opening a business around the obscure sport is seeing others also nail a throw.
“To see people do that has been really fun to watch,” Bock said. “In a group setting, I’ve seen somebody go an entire session and not stick it once until the second-to-last throw and there’s pure joy.”
In the past two weeks, Lumberjax has had six bookings, whereas weekends fill up at a faster rate.
Bock said several businesses have encourage employees to book a session as part of a team-building activity.
Lumberjax has two available sessions per night, except on Wednesdays. The nightly sessions are split up from 6-8 p.m. and 8-10 p.m. On Wednesday, Lumberjax holds walk-in sessions from 7:30-9 p.m.
To schedule an appointment, visit www.thelumberjax.com or call/text 269-332-1117. A deposit is required. Membership fees are still being figured out.
By the end of the summer or early fall, Bock said he wants to have an axe-throwing league set up. Bock said they could potentially partner with breweries and food trucks if they eventually open a second location at a larger building.
“The hope is, once this gets going we can open up a larger branch with other random games and things to do,” Bock said. “We would keep this one here for private parties.”
Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski