Whether it’s axes, ninja stars or batarang blades, Craft Axe Throwing LLC is on a mission to show how safe and fun blade throwing can be.
John Lepant was general manager of the axe house when it opened five years ago, working with out-of-state owners Jake Jensen and Travis Cornelius. He says he’d worked with the owners as regional director of their Mesa, Arizona-based escape room businesses, which they have since sold.
“I was opposed to it in the beginning, if you could believe that,” Lepant says of the axe house. “We try to keep things as safe as possible, so when they came to me about beer and sharp objects, I was like, ‘Are you sure?’”
Lepant says he quickly realized this was an opportunity to reinvent something considered dangerous into something people could safely enjoy.
And in March, he took on that role fully when he purchased the business from Jensen and Cornelius. After years of building a close partnership and working together on escape room and axe house concepts, Lepant says they gave him the opportunity to take over.
As GM and now as owner, he says he’s been able to work out any unsafe aspect of throwing that has come up for the axe house.
“I think that danger factor is something that even other guests are concerned about,” Lepant says. “But there is nothing unsafe about this.”
Lepant says the lanes have barriers between them, and the axes have rubber handles. Participants get a rundown of rules and techniques before beginning the activity, so all participants learn how to correctly throw.
Lepant has a 10-year lease on the building with TurnKey Real Estate LLC and pays $4,625 a month. The property is roughly 3,800 square feet and is equipped with 12 target lanes, which accommodate guests throwing axes, ninja stars and batarang blades of all sizes. Lepant did not disclose the purchase price of the business but noted the previous owners invested roughly $75,000-$100,000 to start the business in 2018, with each lane costing $15,000.
Customers can reserve a throwing lane in advance for $23 per person, per hour. Any guests choosing to watch and not play pay an $8 admission fee. Customers also have the option to rent out a variety of extra blades for throwing, including batarang blades and ninja stars. Prices range from one extra blade for $10 to three blades for $25.
Annual revenue across the U.S. axe throwing industry is estimated at $215 million, according to the World Axe Throwing League – the biggest axe throwing league in America. The first recreational axe throwing facility reportedly opened in 2016, according to event marketing platform Xola.com. Since then, axe throwing has gone international, with axe throwing clubs spanning all around the U.S., and The International Axe Throwing Federation, which also started in 2016, has more than 20,000 members across 150 cities. Craft Axe is one of two axe houses in Springfield, with TommyHawks Axe House operating on College Street. Lepant says he’s optimistic about the growth of the axe throwing industry.
“It’s going to become more popular. It has a lot of potential to keep growing,” Lepant says. “You have this whole generation of potential axe throwers down the line.”
From 2021 to 2022, Craft Axe has seen a 5%-7% revenue increase, with Craft Axe’s 2022 revenue coming in at $300,000.
Products and services
Lepant says the name of the business was inspired by the selection of craft beers at the axe house sourced from local breweries: Springfield Brewing Co., Mother’s Brewing Co. and 4 By 4 Brewing Co. Craft Axe also serves seltzers, nonalcoholic drinks and snacks.
Additionally, customers can play games such as giant Jenga and ring toss, and Lepant sells merchandise such as T-shirts, stickers and hats.
Lepant says he also rents out the space for special events and team building. Local businesses nPrint Graphix, Becker & Scott Orthodontics and Truck Hero have visited Craft Axe Throwing for events, he says. Businesses can cater in food for the event, and Lepant says he offers a throw-off competition at the end of each event.
John Fugitt, owner and CEO of nPrint Graphix, says taking his clients to Craft Axe Throwing was a unique way to celebrate the business.
“Since we are in the creative business, we like to do things that are a little different and unique. We really like the atmosphere,” Fugitt says. “It’s something you don’t do every day.”
He says Craft Axe staff members provided good instruction, so they didn’t feel unsafe during their experience, and nPrint plans to make team celebrations at Craft Axe an annual event.
Craft Axe also hosts themed nights with specialty target boards, such as Zombie Night for Halloween, Glow Throw with glow-in-the-dark decor, and moms and dads throw free for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
In an effort to support the local community, Lepant says Craft Axe gives back to several schools, nonprofits and foundations by donating play passes and giving away scrap wood. Additionally, a few years ago the company donated 100 seedling trees for Arbor Day.
“Because we use so much wood, we wanted to make sure people understood that we’re trying to be environmentally sound,” Lepant says.
He says axe throwing is a great way not only to relieve stress, but to relax.
“We try to focus more on just the fun and the entertainment here. We just want people to have a good time from beginning to end,” he says.
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