It’s not very often a business can generate a fan club before opening, but Tap That Axe Throwing in Clemmons managed to pull it off.
“Our Facebook page was huge before we even opened the door,” says Mike Citro, owner of the indoor ax-throwing facility. To date, the company’s Facebook page has more than 900 check-ins since they opened in April.
Seemingly overnight, the ax-throwing craze descended upon North Carolina. News of multiple throwing venues opening quickly traveled through the Triad, drawing large crowds to opening-day celebrations.
Citro says even the building landlord was excited for their arrival. The spacious facility, decorated to look like a mountain cabin, features multiple throwing bays, a private event space, a large bar, and plenty of seating. The Village of Clemmons immediately embraced the business, he says, which is situated a stone’s throw from the intersection of Lewisville-Clemmons Road and Interstate 40.
“We already have a lot of regulars, including a lot of people from the local community,” Citro says. “We’re close to the interstate, so it’s easy for people. I have people come in from all over: High Point, Winston, even Hickory.”
So who throws an ax, anyway? Lumberjacks looking to hone their craft? Boy or Girl Scouts earning badges? The short answer is, well, everyone.
“Women like it more than men,” Citro says. “It’s the opposite of lumberjack-type people, although we do have one regular called The Viking.”
Tap That Axe is also more than just a place to toss weaponry — it’s a place for families and friends to unwind and spend some time together.
“We have one of the largest craft beer selections in the state, on top of hard seltzer, cider, and soda; there’s something for everyone,” Citro says. “I want people to come in here, sit on the couches, play Jenga, play video games, and relax. I wanted us to be different.”
Folks need not worry about mishaps, as both Citro and Scott Gadd, co-owner of Axe Club of America, emphasize safety regulations and training for their staff and guests. Both businesses provide thorough instruction for their throwing coaches, and are vigilant about sharing best practices with guests.
Best friends Maddi Williams and Emma O’Toole tried ax-throwing for the first time at Tap That Axe as a way to celebrate Emma’s mom’s birthday. The girls split up on teams with each parent and competed to see who could rack up the most points (spoiler: Team Dad).
“It’s just really fun! Throwing a sharp object is a good stress reliever,” says Williams. “We’ll be back.”
How’d it get here?
Everyone seems to know about ax-throwing as a social activity these days, but where did it originate?
One foundation of social ax-throwing as we know it can be traced to a company called The Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL). The league began in 2006 with a group of friends throwing an ax at a stump outside a cottage in Toronto. The group of eight quickly ballooned into two leagues of 60, competing with targets and a points system.
BATL was born.
Was BATL the first organized social ax-throwing group? Probably not. But it did spark a movement all across North America — a movement that reached Gadd and his wife, Ashleigh, in 2014.
“Ashleigh and I first heard about it in 2014 from a promotional video that a company posted,” Scott says. “I fell in love instantly as it rekindled my Boy Scout experiences and throwing around in my backyard as a kid. So we traveled to Canada to see what the urban version of the sport was all about, and got hooked pretty quickly.”
The Gadds were two of the first to open an ax-throwing club in North Carolina. Now, more than a dozen clubs have popped up across the state, from Asheville to the Outer Banks. The Gadds recently opened their third location in downtown. The facility is a 5,000 foot space decorated with local art, complete with an open-air patio for warm nights.
The couple is proud to be ax-throwing pioneers for the state — and the nation.
“At the time we were looking into it, there were no urban ax-throwing spots in the United States, and we felt like people were missing this amazing activity,” Scott says. “The city has been so positive and supportive, which is just awesome to see. We love our home right across from Earl’s and by the Winston Junction Market, and we’ve really been welcomed with open arms,” Scott says.
To add to the excitement of Axe Club of America’s downtown Winston-Salem opening, Wise Man Brewing hosted a pop-up, ax-throwing event at their neighboring facility.
“Our brewmaster, Sam, mentioned the idea of doing a pop-up after hearing about another brewery doing one, and I thought it sounded like a fun thing to do,” says Dan Rossow, taproom manager at Wise Man. “Everyone that came out and threw axes seemed to have a blast. There was a sizable line the whole time they were set up.”
Rossow notes there’s hope for further joint events in the future.
For those inclined to give this exciting new sport a try, ax-throwing experiences start at $20 for an hour at Axe Club of America, and $25 for 1 hour and 15 minutes at Tap That Axe. The fee includes the booth, axes, and training.
Folks who catch the bug are encouraged to join a league at either location; at Tap That Axe, leagues began last month, and weekly tournaments are slated to start later this summer. At Axe Club of America, one can join competitive leagues for a $125 fee for an 8-week season as part of the National Axe Throwing Federation (NATF). Membership in the NATF provides throwing statistics for the 10,000-plus members in the federation, so Winston-Salem locals can compare their scores to those of throwers across the country. Additionally, Axe Club of America travels to competitions all over the nation and throughout Canada each year.
Want to Go?
6000 Meadowbrook Mall Court, Suite 12, Clemmons
109 W. Ninth Street, Winston-Salem