Chop On By
Have a beer and chuck an ax
Nothing says unwinding with friends or family like … hurling hatchets? Since opening in August 2018, Wilmington’s Axes & Allies has become a popular spot on the activity-based entertainment scene.
Owner MIA TROY (above) has created a relaxed and casual space for socializing and recreation in the Third Street space that used to house the Red Barn Studio Theatre.
Visitors can hang out in the “lumberjack chic” lounge, grab a drink, and toss axes at large targets stenciled on pine wood planks. The bar is stocked with local and craft beer, wine, sodas, and seltzer – but no liquor. That’s intentional for safety purposes. Axes & Allies’ eight throwing lanes – six inside and two outside – are set up like a bowling alley. Groups of up to eight people per lane can throw for fun, keep score by tracking points on provided chalkboards, or try more skilled games.
First-timers need not be nervous. An “axepert” will coach you on throwing techniques. All it takes is close-toed shoes, decent aim, and a little finesse.
“It’s something most people can do. You don’t need any experience,” Troy says. “We’ve seen throwers as young as ten (children can throw before 9 p.m. with parental supervision) and as old as ninety-one. Actually, women are sticking the axes quicker. They have that finesse and aren’t so serious about it. They’re just having fun.”
Serious competitors can join eight-weeklong competitive leagues. Axes & Allies is a member of the World Axe Throwing League, so players can advance to national tournaments. Lumberjills can enjoy discounted rates on Wednesday nights. Thursdays are military and first responders nights. And, groups can reserve lanes for parties or corporate events.
Troy knew ax throwing was the next big thing when she visited her sister and brother- in-law in Denver in March 2018. They called Bad Axe Throwing and discovered there was a three-week waiting list to get in.
“I had an ‘Aha!’ moment and told my sister, ‘This is going to be something. Wilmington will love this,’” Troy recalls.
She had never owned a bar or thrown an ax. But, using her business degree and marketing and public relations experience, Troy knew she could curate a fun – and cathartic – customer experience.
“People getting their first bull’s-eye … that’s is my favorite part! I’m getting goosebumps,” she says. “When everyone erupts and is cheering each other on, I never get sick of it. I just love making people happy.”
Troy signed a lease in May 2018, began construction in June, and opened two months later. Hurricane Florence hit that September. Storm-weary residents sought normalcy, and Axes & Allies gained popularity. Troy found visitors wanted to do something new.
“People are looking for more experiences, not just drinking at a bar,” she says.
Whether it’s a first date, family night, or a team-building activity, Axes & Allies is an accessible, low-key, and incredibly fun way to spend an evening.
“At first people don’t know what to expect,” Troy says. “After a few throws, they can’t wait to come back.”
To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to michaelclinephoto.com.
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