On target: Ax-throwing trend comes to BG

Allen County native Joel Steele aims to open his Flip’n Axe ax-throwing venue Saturday in the former Johnetta’s Pub building on Greenwood Lane.

Got an ax to grind? Or maybe you just want to bury the hatchet.

Either way, Bowling Green will soon have a venue where you can get in touch with your inner barbarian and participate in one of the fastest-growing trends in the country: ax throwing.

The Flip’n Axe, the third location of a North Carolina-based company, is scheduled to open Saturday in the former home of Johnetta’s Pub at 327 Greenwood Lane.

The venue will include a bar, which at first sounds like a recipe for some Game of Thrones-like lacerations, but owner Joel Steele emphasizes that the business will limit alcohol consumption and focus first on the activity of ax throwing that he says is quite literally a cutting-edge activity.

“It’s the fastest-growing sport in the world now,” boasted Steele, an Allen County native and U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “This venue will appeal to people who want to do something different, and it’s not that hard to do.”

Steele, an investor in the original two Flip’n Axe locations in North Carolina, has seen firsthand how popular ax throwing has become.

“In North Carolina, people would drive three hours to throw axes,” he said Monday as he and construction workers put the finishing touches on the interior of the former pub. “It’s actually pretty stupid how much people will spend on the sport.”

From its beginnings at a Toronto bar less than a decade ago, the lumberjack-inspired activity has spread to the U.S. and spawned chains like Bad Axe Throwing, which lists more than 30 locations on its website.

When he moved back to the Bowling Green area in 2017 after 10 years in the military, Steele saw an opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of flinging axes at a circular wooden target roughly three feet in diameter.

“People here have been driving to Louisville or Nashville for ax throwing,” said Steele, who works as a sales representative by day.

Steele is hoping to fill that vacuum with a venue he describes as “kid-friendly and family-oriented.”

“It provides good entertainment, whether you’re a 10-year-old kid or a 60-year-old grandma,” he said.

Steele said Flip’n Axe will have a number of safety precautions.

Every participant will be required to sign a waiver, and each of the venue’s six dual-target throwing stations will be screened off from the other stations by chain-link fencing. The local venue will use soft materials below the target to avoid the type of bounce back off a rubber surface that showed up on a YouTube video recently.

At least two ax-throwing coaches will be on hand at all times, Steele said, to provide instruction and ensure safety.

Bowling Green resident Sarah Budlove, who has tried ax throwing in Louisville, said the learning curve for the activity isn’t long.

“It’s not very hard,” Budlove said. “It’s like throwing darts, but it’s with an ax. There are always good coaches and people around if you need help.”

Steele hopes the business will appeal to men, women and children aged 10 and older. He plans to charge $17 per hour for adults (16 and over) and $15 per hour for those ages 10 to 15. He will offer that $15 price for active-duty military and veterans. He’s also planning for league play that will be affiliated with the World Axe Throwing League.

He plans to have the business open from 5 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and from 1 p.m. to midnight Friday through Sunday.

Although he hasn’t opened his doors yet, Steele is already preparing for growth under the Flip’n Axe brand.

“I’ll probably open up about four more,” he said. “We’re looking at Clarksville (Tenn.), Elizabethtown and Owensboro, and I would like to do one more in Bowling Green.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

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