- Associated Press - Monday, August 21, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Canadian Mario Zelaya had been to the city several times when he had a friend attending college in Seminole. He always liked Oklahoma City.

When he started his company, Bad Axe Throwing, the city was on the list for locations. It took about five months to find a place here.

But people shouldn’t expect to walk by in Bricktown. It’s on W. Reno Avenue, across from the Historic Farmers Market District.

“We’re a destination,” Zelaya said. “We don’t tend to go for the main shopping centers. In Chicago, it’s the same type of neighborhood. We like to go into up-and-coming areas. That’s where we fit well within the culture.”

The venue is about the size of a two-car garage. On the west wall are wooden planks, featuring large target circles. There are fences separating every two targets. The axes hang on the side. After signing a waiver and seeing a demonstration, people can start throwing axes.

Every location is corporate-owned. The company hires people to serve as hosts and coaches. It’s open by appointment only, with a few walk-in hours on the weekends. This helps control costs.

“We’re not busy all the time where the money is flowing in,” he said. “We have to be very conscious of how much we want to invest in fixtures and the overall look and feel of the place.”

The Journal Record reports that a bachelor party is coming to Bad Axe this month. There will also be walk-in days.

Zelaya said Bad Axe is popular with other businesses, with about 50 percent of its revenue generated by corporate outings. Companies can cater their own food and non-alcoholic beverages, though a liquor license is in the works.

The other large part of the business is league play, like a bowling alley. Bad Axe is part of the World Axe Throwing League.

“It really makes our business take off,” he said. “The world championships are happening in the fall. The leagues are huge.”

He said he expects the leagues will be huge in Oklahoma City. The grand opening weekend was one of the largest for the company, with about 800 people visiting the venue.

In Oklahoma City, hosts Katie Marlock, Phil Pettit, and Ben Gaskins are helping people learn to throw. Marlock had worked at Sonic Drive-In and tended bar before getting the job at Bad Axe.

She had never thrown axes previously, but once she stuck her first axe in the target, she was hooked. With a hospitality background, she said it’s awesome to talk to people and coach them.

Gaskins said he last worked at the Coca-Cola warehouse, but wasn’t happy with his job. He was unemployed when he found the Bad Axe listing.

He said he enjoys helping people get the axe to stick in the board. He tries to break down every motion and correct it.

“I haven’t had anyone come in and leave without getting a stick,” he said.

He said people are always baffled when they hear what he does for a living. They usually take a step back and look confused.

“They’ll say, ‘I didn’t even know we did that in Oklahoma,’” he said. “Some people have done it at the Medieval Fair in Norman.”

The Oklahoma City site is the only Bad Axe location in the state for now, though Zelaya said another site could be added later. He said he wants to get at least one Bad Axe in every state and then add more.

“The trick is finding great real estate and then great partners,” he said. “Phase II would be in a couple of years.”


Information from: The Journal Record, https://www.journalrecord.com

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