December 6, 2021

StrategisChhr

Skillful Business Crafters

Downtown Axe business picks up as the weather cools down

“They have like 19 buffalo,” Zavoral said. “This is Thunder, and he got killed a couple of years ago. We put him here.”

Thunder, the unofficial mascot of Downtown Axe, is mounted on the wall just inside the door. (Jacob Holley/Grand Forks Herald)

Downtown Axe in Grand Forks has been operating smoothly since it opened July 15, but its owners, longtime friends Carrie Zavoral and Jake Peterson, have high hopes for this winter. The business, an “axe-throwing bar,” provides enough excitement that it might have caused some concern for those to whom they pitched the idea.

“Everyone already says, ‘Beer and axes?’” Zavoral said. “‘Are you guys nuts?’ Whatever, but it’s been good. People are typically responsible, and we have our ‘axeperts’ monitoring the lanes all night checking on you, and people are here an hour or two. They don’t get too rowdy. It’s good.”

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Now, nearly four months later, the business is regularly open Thursdays through Sundays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and is doing well. The business has continued to add on to its indoor rustic aesthetic.

“We’re trying to cozy it up for the winter,” Zavoral said. “We’re bringing in some birch.”

Downtown Axe has already booked some Christmas parties and other holiday events, and slots for large gatherings are filling up quickly.

Jake Peterson demonstrates a two-handed throw at Downtown Axe on S. 3rd St. in Grand Forks. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Jake Peterson demonstrates a two-handed throw at Downtown Axe on S. 3rd St. in Grand Forks. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Customers can line up at eight lanes labeled by number and throw axes and throwing stars at wooden targets that function like dart boards — the closer you get towards the center, the more points you earn.

However, throwing an axe isn’t easy. Even Zavoral has a hard time getting throwing blade-first in order for it to stick on the target. The giant game of Jenga by the front door is difficult, too.

Downtown Axe sprays what it calls “magic juice” on the targets in order to soften the wood and allow axes and throwing stars to stick. Zavoral said she can sometimes spend half an hour emptying an entire jug amongst the eight targets at times just to cover them completely.

“It’s literally water,” Zavoral said. “We just have to get them wet.”

Zavoral and company change the wood on each target on the weekends once they have been used up. Players stand behind a line, make sure their legs are evenly set together and then they can wield an axe with both hands behind their heads and throw. Closed-toes shoes are also a must, and so is being 21 or older. Downtown Axe also has shoes people can rent if they didn’t bring their own.

“Especially in the summer, people are walking around maybe dressed up for dinner or whatever, and they’ll have sandals on,” Zavoral said. “So, we give them Crocs when they come in, kind of like bowling shoes. You borrow them and give them back. We have hot pink, orange and we just bought some ugly ones.”

Jake Peterson and Carrie Zavoral play Jenga at Downtown Axe on S. 3rd St. in Grand Forks. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Jake Peterson and Carrie Zavoral play Jenga at Downtown Axe on S. 3rd St. in Grand Forks. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Zavoral said she thinks the appeal of throwing axes is just that — it’s something different that people don’t often get to do.

“People are just so fun” Zavoral said. “I think they just like having an activity. Instead of going to sit somewhere, they can come here and actually throw axes and do activities. It’s fun. You just hear groups laughing, and when that Jenga thing tops over I jump every time.”

https://www.grandforksherald.com/business/7269242-Downtown-Axe-business-picks-up-as-the-weather-cools-down