May 28, 2018

CT's first ax-throwing venue nears Hartford debut

HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper
HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper
Throwing coach David Scalise hones his ax-throwing skills during a practice round at Pine & Iron's soft opening on May 18. Below is a photo of his bull's-eye target.

Fresh pine wafting from Hartford's Parkville neighborhood will soon be noticable when Connecticut's first ax-throwing venue opens in June.

Pine & Iron ax throwing at 1429 Park St. will feature 10 pine-canvassed targets divided into six lanes and a young cast of employees eager to share the growing fad.

Its grand opening is scheduled for June 2 and the business will operate Thursdays through Sundays thereafter.

Similar to darts, ax throwing is a sport where competitors throw an ax at a target while attempting to hit the bull's-eye for additional points.

The medieval adventure game is sweeping the nation, despite the assumed dangers of hurling a two-foot ax 14 feet from a target.

Recreational ax throwing is believed to have started in Toronto, Canada in 2011, before similar venues launched in Montreal, and then in U.S. cities including Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Denver, Houston, Baltimore and at least four opening by year-end in neighboring Massachusetts, among others.

Pine & Iron will be Connecticut's first ax-throwing venue to open. A separate ax-throwing site is expected to debut in Newington shortly thereafter.

Pine & Iron's 10 employees recently showcased their 3,300-square-foot wooded space during a "super secret" soft opening attended by about 75 friends, family and community members.

Setting the scene with an impressive audio system, the newly refurbished space is fitted with high ceilings and several fenced walls that protect participants from other throwing lanes.

Pine & Iron's staff say they're situated in an ideal building, which targets a younger audience and anyone looking for a new or adventurous activity.

Those patrons may also be visiting the building's other tenants: Hop River Brewing, reSET Social Enterprise Trust or EBK Picture Framing and Gallery.

The building is located in a transit-oriented district that allows indoor recreation. Pine & Iron's planning and zoning application was approved by city officials in April.

"A vibrant social scene made Hartford an obvious choice for Pine & Iron," said Cassie Butler, the company's marketing and events coordinator.

The business is owned by two Millennials who asked not to be identified because they also have full-time day jobs.

Safety first

Pine & Iron staffers say they have few safety concerns, as the business follows the safety standards implemented by the National Axe Throwing Federation.

Under its rules, Pine & Iron requires participants to wear comfortable clothing with closed-toed shoes. Participants must be 16 years or older to play. Those under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult.

Visitors receive instructions from a throwing coach on safety and proper throwing techniques prior to each hour-long, ax-throwing session.

Lane reservations accommodate up to four people, and "social throws" are limited to two people per booking. Six of the lanes have double targets and hold up to eight people.

Pricing ranges between $12.50 to $20 per person depending on group size and day of operation.

Meanwhile, Merle McKenzie, owner of Newington's Montana Nights, said his previously announced ax-throwing site will open in late June or early July.

McKenzie says he is awaiting planning and zoning commission approval before he opens his 8,000-square-foot space at 80 Fenn Road — which will become the largest ax-throwing venue in New England.

CT trailing

Although Connecticut will house two ax-throwing sites by summer, McKenzie said the state is trailing the national trend.

McKenzie, who is also seeking a liquor license at his Newington business, plans to employ a minimum of 10 to 15 workers.

Nutmeggers, he says, will love the "primal" nature of ax throwing that serves as a social event for people of all ages.

Once the sport is popularized throughout Connecticut, McKenzie says he hopes other ax-throwing venues are strategically located across the state to avoid market saturation.

"Having an exciting thing to gather around and compete against provides all you need for a successful business," he said. "We wish the owners in Hartford well. Hopefully both businesses being open will lead to each other prospering."

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