AUGUSTA — Mike Yeaton first saw hatchet throwing on TV and thought it was kind of cool.
“When we actually went and did it, I decided it was kind of neat,” Yeaton said. “It’s a different sport.”
And now, no later than the beginning of May, Yeaton, 46, and partner Mary Young, 41, are bringing their own brand of hatchet throwing to Augusta via Hatchet House, which is slated to open in the Marketplace at Augusta.
The couple spent Monday in their space, setting up point-of-purchase equipment and having a router installed. Getting city approval for their liquor license, setting up their website and social media accounts, and preparing their merchandise are among items that need to be completed behind paper-covered windows before they can open for business.
The covered windows have piqued the curiosity of passersby.
“When you tell people what you’re doing,” Yeaton said, “there are a lot of people interested.”
Hatchet and ax throwing is rooted in woodsmen or lumberjack traditions and competitions, along with wood splitting and chopping, chainsaw events and pulpwood toss.
In the last decade, commercial ax-throwing businesses have taken root in cities across the United States and Canada, among other countries. In Maine, a handful of similar businesses currently operate: The Axe Pit in South Portland; Splittin’ Wood Axe Throwing in Lewiston; Smoke and Steel BBQ, a restaurant in Bangor; and G-Force at the Bangor Mall.
League play along with league-specific rules have been developed, but Young and Yeaton say they are offering a different experience. Rather than hosting leagues, they are offering a variety of games with different targets electronically projected onto boards.
“Every game is different,” Yeaton said.
And individual games offer a variety of options. In the traditional bullseye game, for instance, the location of the bullseye changes. Other games include tic-tac-toe and a zombie challenge, where zombies are the target.
They don’t have them yet, but eventually Yeaton and Young will offer throwing stars, also known as ninja stars, as well.
Young and Yeaton have spent the last couple of months working out the logistics of the business — building the lanes and targets, making design tweaks to ensure safety, securing entertainment venue insurance and drafting the paperwork they need to make the business go.
Finding the right space, however, was one of their biggest hurdles.
They looked first in the Farmington area, which has the advantage of being closer to their home in Strong. But even after drafting a commercial real estate broker to help in the search, they had no luck. When they thought they had found a space that would work, they found landlords were reluctant to sign a lease for a hatchet-throwing business.
After searching for several months closer to home, they turned their attention to Augusta and the Marketplace at Augusta, looking at two spaces before signing a three-year lease for a space between Kay Jewelers and GNC.
“It’s more busy down here (in Augusta), for sure,” Yeaton said.
They expect the cost will be $30 an hour to play.
Young has run different financial scenarios, factoring in lane vacancies, to make sure the business would be sustainable.
“We want a place (where) we can build up events,” she said. “We want a place we knew we would feel comfortable coming into. We know what we would spend, and we wanted it to be nice.”
“A couple places we’ve been to, they threw some plywood up, some boards on it and chicken wire, and they’re busy,” Yeaton said. “They don’t have a lot invested, and they’re still charging $20 an hour. We worked hard and made this place look decent.”
“We figure the nicer you make it, the more people will come,” Young said.
While they will serve beer, wine and cider, Yeaton and Young say the business is not a bar; when people come, they will be spending their time playing the games offered, rather than drinking or eating the food the license requires them to serve.
“Maybe in an hour, you would have one beer,” he said. “We’ve been to a few of them. We were there to throw axes.”
Everyone must sign a waiver and take safety instruction before they start. No one younger than 13 will be allowed to play, and anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Hatchet House plans to be open Thursdays through Sundays, and the hours are being finalized, in the afternoon and evening on weekdays, with earlier opening times on the weekends. Reservations are required.
“If somebody sticks that ax once, I’ll be happy,” Yeaton said. “Because when somebody has never thrown a hatchet, and they stick a hatchet in the wall at whatever game, they’re excited.”