Business booming at Millvale ax-throwing venue
A crowd with an axe to grind after work gathered in a renovated Millvale industrial space to relax with friends and participate in a popular new activity.
They tested their competitive axe-throwing skills at LumberjAxes.
As part of each booking, the venue provides coaches who spend 30 minutes instructing teams on how to safely throw the hatchets. Guests take several practice throws, wrapping both hands around the wooden handles and raising their axes above their heads before throwing them at pine targets.
Coaches divide the groups into teams and stay with them for the entire two to two-and-a-half-hour tournament.
In addition to the hip-hop emanating from the jukebox, frequent cheers of encouragement erupted that weeknight. Watching from wooden picnic tables, players awaiting their turns drank beer that they brought from home. LumberjAxes co-owner Corey Deasy, 35, said guests may bring a couple of beer growlers, a six-pack of beer or bottle of wine, but hard alcohol is not permitted.
“Our axe coaches are almost entirely focused on safety and making sure that everyone is having a good time and part of safety is monitoring for overconsumption,” he said.
Anthony Yimin planned his group's visit as part of his 25-year-old cousin Rico Diaz's bachelor party.
“We're having a beer and stuff, you feel a little more comfortable, the competition comes out, the athletic part comes out. Now I want to win,” said the 35-year-old Fort Myers, Fla., resident.
Bachelor party attendees and brothers Joe, 39, and Jonathan, 33, of Bethel Park, said the sport seems innate, but Jonathan said the throwing maneuver doesn't always come naturally.
Meanwhile, Joyce McManus, 55, of Ross, displayed a knack for axe-throwing during her training session.
“I like it. I got a bull's-eye. Maybe it was my first or second (try),” she said.
“I play darts, but not in a league or anything — just recreational, here or there.”
Cindy Yingling, 55, McCandless, booked the tournament McManus attended as part of their “in lieu of bowling (ILOB),” group established when they stopped playing on a bowling league and decided to book bimonthly events such as concerts, tours, sporting events and dining outings, instead.
In September, Deasy, of Lincoln Place, cousin Matthew Peyton, of Greenfield, and friend Jack Welsh, of Munhall, opened LumberjAxes. Deasy gained entertainment industry experience co-founding the area's first escape room.
Deasy first tried axe-throwing when visiting his sister in Philadelphia. Halfway through the evening he realized that he wanted to bring the movement to Pittsburgh.
LumberjAxes is located in the 7,000 square-foot former Red Star Iron Works warehouse adjacent to Grist House Craft Brewery. Deasy said the owners were excited to open their venture in Millvale because “so many businesses have been sprouting up there the last couple of years” and of the supportive community and borough. Furthermore, Millvale's location close to downtown, Lawrenceville and the North Hills makes it a “slam dunk.”
McManus described the experience as “rural in an urban setting.”
According to Deasy, business has grown exponentially. LumberjAxes, which can accommodate more than 100 guests, has organized corporate events for Pittsburgh's top employers. It also is accepting reservations for leagues, which cost $150 per person for eight weeks. In order to meet demands, the owners are hoping to expand the staff of 10 to approximately 25.
“It's these new, innovative forms of entertainment that are going to do really well now and in the immediate future,” Deasy said.
“It sort of brings you back to your childhood when you maybe got your first pocketknife and you threw it into the ground and that feeling was, you know, awesome,” said Joe Yimin.
“We're bringing our husbands back; we think they'll like it,” said 55-year-old Beth Binnall, of Glenshaw, part of the ILOB group.
Looking ahead, the owners want to offer knife throwing and open additional Pittsburgh locations. Deasy and another partner are set to open another LumberjAxes possibly in December in Tempe, Ariz. For details on that location, check out axethrowingphx.com.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.