This is the most exhilarating thing I did all week. And, when it was over, I wanted more.
Emily Caulfield is giddy over hitting the target. Photo by Shea Carver
Axes & Allies, Wilmington’s first and only axe-throwing bar, is totally surreal, sleek and cozy, niftily appointed, and stocked with every craft brew imaginable and wines to boot (no liquor). Mia Troy, former Vermonter, just moved to Wilmington a few short months ago and is changing the entertainment landscape of our fair city.
Urban axe-throwing is currently sending up sparks all over the country. After the World Axe Throwing League (WATL) was established in Canada in 2017, the sport has been growing with speed, with venues popping up all over North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. Wilmingtonians have had to travel to Jacksonville (which has two of them) or Fayetteville (which has a mobile one) to get their fix … until now. As a member of the WATL, Axes & Allies is all regulation, ready and waiting for locals to come in and compete at the global level, connecting to them to players all over the world.
“I’m ready to start a team myself,” noted Drewe Smith, editor of Focus on the Coast Weddings. She was nailing bullseyes left and right in a friendly competition with encore editor Shea Carver.
“I think you’re winning,” Drewe joked.
“I’m not keeping score, just expending some energy,” Shea responded. “And I’ll happily join your team, Drewe.”
“I mean, I am never naturally this good at anything,” Drewe noted with a laugh. “I love this.”
Troy and company have completely transformed the old Red Barn Studio Theater on Third St. in the Greenfield Lake area, with a handsome pale wood bar and four throwing lanes, featuring two targets each. Obviously, axes are everywhere—small, light ones with short blades and tall, heavier ones with long blades.
“I think I like the heavier ones,” Shea observed, after sending a smaller axe through the air, landing way above target. “It feels like it’s more controlled and the weight sticks in the wood better.”
“Well, it sticks in the wood when you can feel the finesse of the throw that sends the point in at an angle,” the Axpert responded.
Axperts are personal axe-throwing coaches who ensure everyone is safe while having the most fun possible. Learning axe-etiquette is the cool way to play, and while there’s a lot to be aware of, it’s easy to catch on. The Axperts coach and encourage and gently remind players to not, for example, hold a hatchet and talk with their hands. They explain how to throw one-handed or two-handed and even joke around while doing it.
“Looks like you’re going after a 7-foot tall someone?” he kidded as Shea hit over target.
Even players unsure about handling an axe will find that after one throw, there is no going back.
“I worry this is just going to be a bucket-list commodity,” Troy told us gals as we noshed on tacos and sipped our IPAs.
“Ya know, I thought the same thing,” I responded with candor. “But I was wrong. It is completely addicting. You will not have to worry about people not returning.”
Drewe meandered off again to practice her game; media night was only supposed to be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The clock was ticking toward 9.
“Have you pulled out the axe with your foot against the wall yet?” Drewe asked in complete satisfaction.
“Um, no, but I will now,” I promised.
She was going for the blue 10-point target, located on either side of the larger bullseye. “I will hit one of these before I leave,” she assured us.
And she did.
Encore editor Shea Carver shows off her bullseye! Photo by Emily Caulfield
Players can bring their own axes—much like billiards players have their own sticks or bowlers their own balls—as long as it’s offered up to Troy’s staff for inspection; it must meet WATL standards. Each lane fits up to eight guests, but while waiting for a turn, there are plenty of other things to take in and muse over. A little David Lynch-meets-Paul Bunyan, Axes and Allies’ walls are papered in flannel and feature low leather couches, with rustic wood tables made out of warehouse dollies. A jackalope and a deer are mounted on the walls, and a mural painted by local artist Nathan Verwey looks over the throwing lanes. Pretty lighting and thoughtful details, invite guests to stay, as does the large outdoor patio. Modeled after a lumberjack-style lodge and equipped with a big ol’ parking lot, the space is perfect for large parties and team-building events, craft fairs, food truck-rodeos, and any other thing one would ever want to attend with an axe in hand.
And trust me, Wilmington: You will want to.
Troy hopes her bar will be the new go-to spot, with soon-to-be-offered monthly memberships that make it easier to hit a bullseye for longer than an hour at a time (costs are currently $25/hour). Super inclusive, handicap-accessible, fun for all ages 10 and up (younger kids must be supervised by parents and are only allowed in at certain hours), Axes & Allies welcomes folks to overcome any intimidation; everyone blooms under the instruction of the Axperts.
Most importantly, it’s fun (very heavy emphasis on fun, by the way). The honor and the glory, the exuberance, the skill, the momentum, the finesse: It all came as a total surprise. Even those who already think it is going to be a good time will still have their minds blown. Axes and Allies is hugely satisfying—flinging an axe as hard as possible, nailing the board, and yanking it out of the wall is not to be missed. It’s not just thrilling, it’s empowering, and all carried out under the very careful supervision which somehow feels even more freeing.
Bottom line: You’re going to love it. No matter what your other plans were, clear your schedule. You’re an axe-throwing enthusiast now, and you’ve got to work on your game.