AUGUSTA — Mike Yeaton first saw hatchet throwing on TV and thought it was pretty cool.
“When we went and did it, I decided it was pretty neat,” Yeaton said. “It’s a different sport.”
And now, at the latest in early May, Yeaton, 46, and his partner Mary Young, 41, are bringing their own brand of ax throwing to Augusta via Hatchet House, which is set to open in the market. ‘Augusta.
The couple spent Monday in their space, setting up point-of-sale equipment and having a router installed. Getting city approval for their liquor license, setting up their website and social media accounts, and getting their merchandise ready are some of the things that need to be completed behind paper-covered windows before they can open their doors.
The covered windows piqued the curiosity of passers-by.
“When you tell people what you’re doing,” Yeaton said, “there’s a lot of people interested.”
Ax and ax throwing is rooted in lumberjack or lumberjack traditions and competitions, as well as wood splitting and chopping, chainsaw events, and pulpwood throwing.
Over the past decade, commercial ax throwing ventures have taken root in cities across the United States and Canada, among other countries. In Maine, a handful of similar businesses currently operate: The Ax Pit in South Portland; Splittin Wood Ax Throwing in Lewiston; Smoke and Steel BBQ, a restaurant in Bangor; and G-Force at the Bangor Mall.
League play as well as league-specific rules have been developed, but Young and Yeaton say they provide a different experience. Rather than hosting leagues, they offer a variety of games with different targets electronically projected onto boards.
“Every game is different,” Yeaton said.
And the individual games offer a variety of options. In the traditional target game, for example, the location of the target changes. Other games include tic-tac-toe and a zombie challenge, where zombies are the target.
They don’t have them yet, but Yeaton and Young will eventually come up with throwing stars, also known as ninja stars.
Young and Yeaton have spent the last two months working on the logistics of the business – building the lanes and targets, making design changes to ensure safety, ensuring entertainment venues are insured and drafting the documents they need to run the business.
Finding the right space, however, was one of their biggest hurdles.
They first searched in the Farmington area, which has the advantage of being closer to their home in Strong. But even after recruiting a commercial real estate broker to help with the search, they were unlucky. When they thought they had found a space that would work, they found that landlords were reluctant to sign a lease for a hatchet throwing business.
After searching for several months closer to home, they turned to Augusta and the Augusta Market, looking at two spaces before signing a three-year lease for space between Kay Jewelers and GNC.
“It’s busier here (in Augusta), that’s for sure,” Yeaton said.
They expect the cost to be $30 per hour to play.
Young ran through different financial scenarios, factoring in vacancies, to ensure the business would be sustainable.
“We want a place (where) we can hold events,” she said. “We want a place where we knew we would feel comfortable going. We know what we were going to spend and we wanted it to be enjoyable.
“A few places we’ve been, they’ve thrown plywood and boards on it and chicken wire, and they’re busy,” Yeaton said. “They haven’t invested a lot and they still charge $20 an hour. We worked hard and made this place look decent.
“We think the nicer you make it, the more people will come,” Young said.
Although they serve beer, wine and cider, Yeaton and Young say the business is not a bar; when people come, they will spend their time playing the games on offer, rather than drinking or eating the food the license requires them to serve.
“Maybe in an hour you’ll have a beer,” he said. “We visited a few of them. We were there to throw axes.
Everyone must sign a waiver and follow the safety guidelines before starting. No one under the age of 13 will be permitted to play and anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Hatchet House plans to be open Thursday through Sunday, and hours are being finalized, weekday afternoons and evenings, with earlier opening hours on weekends. One must reserve.
“If someone sticks that ax once, I’ll be happy,” Yeaton said. “Because when someone has never thrown a hatchet and they drive an ax into the wall at any game, they get excited.”
Restaurant proposal for last Edwards factory building in Augusta would involve city’s $1 sale to developers