Story by MARK SAAL • Photos by BENJAMIN ZACK • Standard-Examiner Staff
OGDEN — It’s called Social Axe Throwing.
And if nothing else, it’s clearly in the running to make the Top 10 list of Coolest Business Names Ever.
Social Axe Throwing is a business that just opened at 2236 Washington Blvd. in downtown Ogden. And it is precisely as advertised: A place where friends, family, coworkers and even complete strangers can get together to socialize while throwing axes and hatchets at circular wooden targets for fun and glory.
Think of the popular pub game of darts. On steroids.
Locally, Social Axe Throwing is the brainchild of Ogden native Brayden Floyd, who had always wanted to own his own business. About six months ago, he came across a business model that was becoming popular in Canada — ax-throwing joints, where people could go to channel their inner lumberjack.
Although not a tree-feller himself, Brayden points out, “I’ve got the beard for it. And I can wear flannel.”
Brayden approached his father, Mark Floyd, with the idea.
“We were talking about doing a collaboration together on a business venture,” Mark recalls. “I was looking at a business venture going in another direction when he came to me with this.”
Mark admits he was skeptical at first.
“It is a little bit out there,” he said. “It’s different. … But the more I looked at it, and thought about it, the more I thought it was a pretty interesting idea.”
So father and son built a target in the back of the elder Floyd’s workshop in Ogden, and started throwing axes at it.
“We were immediately hooked,” Brayden Floyd said.
The two men approached a friend of Mark’s, fellow Ogdenite Steve Lister. Like Mark, Lister was leery at first.
“I was floored by the idea,” he said. “I thought, ‘Really? People do this?’”
They invited Lister over to the workshop to experience it firsthand.
“I went, and it was awesome,” Lister gushes. “I said, ‘I wanna be a part of this.’”
Brayden says it turned into “a regular ax-throwing party” in the back of that workshop.
Putting Ogden on map
Today, the three men are partners in Social Axe Throwing. It’s housed in a building Lister owns just across the street from The Junction. They’re currently conducting a soft opening; a grand opening is planned for May 13.
To their knowledge, the men say this is the first ax-throwing business in Utah, and only the ninth in the entire country. Thus far, the sport has sprouted in large metropolitan areas like New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and Philadelphia.
“We’re putting Ogden on the map here,” Brayden said.
International Axe Throwing Day is scheduled for June 13, and there’s even a World Axe Throwing League.
Lister says, for him, ax throwing brings back memories from both childhood and adulthood.
“You know how guys are — and girls, too,” he said. “You’re sitting around a campfire with nothing to do, and you either pick up a rock and throw it at another rock, or you pick up a hatchet and throw it at a tree.”
Lister says darts were big back when he was in college, so for him and his wife ax-throwing also taps into that shared history.
“It’s enough like dart-throwing that it brings back those memories for me,” he said.
The objective in ax throwing is a 4-foot-by-4-foot wooden target with five concentric rings on it, and two extra targets in the upper corners. Participants stand 14 to 16 feet away, and let fly with an ax or hatchet. Sizes vary, but Brayden says a league ax is 13 inches long, with a 1 ½ pound head.
It’s not as difficult as it sounds, Brayden insists.
“It’s a lot easier than most people think,” he said. “When it doesn’t stick, it’s a bummer. But when you stick it, you get this huge grin across your face.”
The closest Mark can come to finding a comparison to the sport of ax throwing is night bowling. Or perhaps a better comparison, he says, is Liquid Canvas, the business on Historic 25th Street that offers social paint parties.
“It’s comparable to that,” Mark says, “but for men.”
Actually, the owners of Social Axe Throwing say the sport isn’t just for dudes. They’ve researched it, and at some of the other ax-throwing venues around the country the female participation rate is as high as 45 percent. Mark says this is because ax throwing actually offers an “equalized playing field” for women.
“It’s not how hard you throw the ax, but your technique — which we teach you,” Mark said. “And nine times out of 10 women will perform better than men, because they’re better listeners.”
Axes and ales?
While you can purchase food and drink at Social Axe Throwing, there’s currently no beer available.
“Right now we don’t have any drinking,” Brayden said. “There won’t be beer served, although there will be things like sodas and energy drinks.”
However, Mark says there are “rumblings” of a possible beer license in the future, if they’re able to overcome a few unique challenges — like proximity to the Ogden LDS temple.
“If we can get over a few hurdles, we’re definitely not opposed to offering a cold beer, along with a hot dog and an ax,” Mark said. “There’s nothing more American than a cold beer, a hot dog and an ax.”
While safety is a primary concern in the sport, Mark doesn’t believe pairing axes with ales is inherently risky.
“I’ve had some bar experience — managing bars and working in bars — and most times when somebody gets out of hand, it’s after 10 o’clock at night. We’ll be closed by then. This isn’t really a venue for over-consumption.”
Lister thinks Social Axe Throwing is the perfect fit for Ogden, which is known for its outdoor lifestyles like camping, hunting and fishing.
Hours of operation are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. Cost is $35 per person, although Brayden says they often run specials on weeknights — which tend to be less crowded. For that admission price, participants get roughly 2 ½ hours of ax-chucking fun.
The owners say for maximum enjoyment they encourage groups of between eight and 12 people — birthday parties, bachelor or bachelorette parties, and company parties work well — although they will pair smaller groups together when necessary. Each session features a coach/party host, who teaches throwing techniques, makes sure safety rules are followed and leads the group through various competitions.
“I think the biggest thing I would say is bring a group of people that you know you can have a great time with,” Lister said. “This is a party we’re going to put on. It’s not just, ‘Come in and huck hatchets.’ It’s very entertaining, very social.”
For more information, call 801-395-2937.
“That’s 801-395-AXES,” Brayden explains.
Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.