Ax throwing business hopes to offer new experience for Lawrence consumers
James Marx lifted the sharp object with both arms behind his head before using the momentum of his body to throw it about 15 feet.
The object, a light metal ax, made a “thwack” sound when it reached its destination, a wooden bullseye.
“I’ve always had a fondness for dangerous things being thrown at wood,” said Marx, noting his experience in archery. “This just seems like a good time.”
Marx and his father, Paul Marx, were some of the first ax throwers to try out the newest thrill-seeking business, Blade and Timber, located at 809 Massachusetts St. The business, which officially opened on Sept. 7, allows customers to walk in, grab a small ax and throw it at a target on the wall.
“It’s a good way to decompress after work,” Marx said.
Matt Baysinger, a Lawrence resident and co-owner of Blade and Timber, said he hopes the business catches the eye of the community as a new activity to experience.
Baysinger also co-owns the Breakout Lawrence store, which locks customers into a room, where they then have to use clues and their problem-solving skills to escape. The interactive puzzle concept has expanded quickly and is just one of the “participatory experiences” Baysinger’s company focuses on.
He said he came to the realization of a need for these type of experiences after the Kansas City Royals’ wild-card win over the Oakland Athletics in 2014.
“The game was amazing, but what was equally amazing was the experience of my hand throbbing of giving high fives to complete strangers,” he said. “I love going to movies, concerts and shows, but those are things where I’m watching what other people have done.”
He compared Blade and Timber to other experience-focused businesses in Kansas City, such as Chicken and Pickle, a restaurant with several pickleball courts.
“Our vision is that people want to actually do things,” he said. “What’s going to get me out of my house? It’s going and doing something.”
Baysinger said he hopes the store also helps local businesses in downtown Lawrence that may be feeling the crunch of consumers turning to online retailers rather than brick-and-mortar stores.
“We’re intentionally coming in because we love Massachusetts Street and we want to be a part of this and a reason why people come downtown,” he said. “Hopefully when they come downtown, they end up going next door to Burger Stand or Zen Zero or go across the street to get coffee.”
The setup is similar to darts or bowling. Customers rent a lane at Blade and Timber to throw an ax at a target. A coach is available at each of the lanes and helps those who have never tried throwing learn how its done.
Baysinger said the coaching is simple and will help customers stick an ax in the target within minutes.
While the concept of the activity is rather simple, some games are available to increase the difficulty. Blade and Timber placed rulebooks outside the lanes for three games, which are similar to standard darts games like cricket.
“Most of the games you just want to hit bullseyes, though,” Baysinger said with a laugh.
Baysinger is optimistic the Lawrence community will try the new experience but will also come back. In Kansas City, the business has built a community of throwers and hosts leagues four nights a week.
“It’s more than just a kitschy thing that will come and go,” Baysinger said. “I would say it’s the bowling of this generation.”
While customers can reserve a lane at a certain time, the front of the store has caught the eye of passersby who may just come in and see what’s going on. Baysinger said the novelty of the activity makes it inherently interesting.
Two of the customers who walked earlier this week understood exactly what Baysinger is trying to offer.
“This is probably the closest I can get to a medieval (activity),” said Chris Vega, a KU student who walked in to throw with his girlfriend, fellow KU student Tatianna Rodriguez.
“Throwing weapons just sounds fun,” Rodriguez said.