The space under Uncommon Athens on Lumpkin Street is now filled with cement floors, sawdust and the occasional pounding of a drill. As part-owner Michael Cochran glanced around the well-lit space, his dream of an axe-throwing hall came alive. He gestured to the wooden wall where the targets would go, the U-shaped bar and, as he recounted his favorite part of the sport, the satisfying thump of the metal blade hitting the bullseye.
“It’s like getting your first strike in bowling or hitting the bullseye in darts — you’re hooked,” Cochran said.
Cochran first fell in love with the trending sport of axe-throwing after trying his hand at it while living in South Carolina before relocating to Athens. Propelled by this love, Cochran is opening LumberJaxe on March 14, claiming to be the first axe-throwing bar Athens has seen.
Cochran said finding a space was difficult due to the small sizes of downtown locations. But he ended up finding a spot that accommodated his vision.
Patrons can reserve one of the six lanes in one-hour slots. Cochran said although official prices haven’t been settled on, it will be about $20 per person per hour.
Cochran said their tentative plan is to open 12-15 more LumberJaxe locations in predominantly “underserved” college towns, but Athens will remain their flagship space.
“The thing we love about Athens is it’s such a walkable downtown court,” Kerry Moher, investor and owner, said. “And there’s nothing like [LumberJaxe] so we think it’s a great complimentary piece to all the restaurants and bars.”
Moher, along with his business partner Jason Bidgood, is a Terry College of Business alumnus. Moher was inspired by the axe-throwing halls in Canada, his home country, and hopes to encourage love of the sport in the United States.
“Usually you’ll go for an hour or two tops, and it’s just another way to round out the evening, maybe before or after dinner, or before a show,” Moher said.
Of the many positions the business will be hiring, LumberJaxe will also need axe-throwing lane coaches. While Cochran said he’s already filled the positions for axe-throwing lane coaches, but he’s still looking to hire more.
For many students like Landon Smith, the idea of an axe-throwing bar is something they’re looking forward to. However, the senior risk management and insurance major from Brunswick, Georgia, also expressed the concerns others have regarding the safety of the event.
“Personally, I think it’s a cool idea,” Smith said. “But being a risk management major, I think a lot about the liabilities that can be there and I hope they have things that would mitigate those risks [and] keep people safe.”
Potential patrons shouldn’t be too worried though, as safety and personal aid are two priorities of LumberJaxe, Cochran said. Axe-throwing coaches will be able to offer both, while making sure axe-throwers know what they’re doing and enjoy their time doing it.
“You don’t have a bunch of knuckleheads having sword fights,” Cochran said.
The odd, yet intriguing sport is gaining popularity in the U.S. In 2017, Mario Zelaya founded the World Axe Throwing League which acts as the governing body for the competitive world of axe throwing and sets standardized rules, safety protocols and axe-throwing techniques.
While it may seem like a male-dominated sport, Cochran said he wants LumberJaxe to be inclusive and is one of the main reasons “Lumber Jill,” one of the business’ branding cartoons, exists.
The name for the business was always going to be LumberJaxe and it was while working on the cartoon sketch of “Jaxe” that the cartoon’s backstory was born. Alongside the axe-throwing enthusiast is his daughter, “Jill,” who, according to the business’ website is “proof positive that you can’t judge a book by its cover and LumberJaxe is for anybody, no matter their size, gender or physical ability.”
Cochran hopes to spread his love of the sport to the Athens community by opening this downtown business. He speaks to the simplicity of the sport as an invitation to everyone — regardless if they’re a seasoned axe-thrower or have never picked up an axe in their life.
“The great thing is it’s not like golf [which] takes you months and months of practice,” Cochran said. “Within the first hour you’ll be sticking them, and more than likely you’ll hit at least one bullseye while you’re here.”