By Deb Everts

The age-old sport of axe throwing is coming to Ellicottville with a new twist. The Ratchet Hatchet will be opening soon at 14 Washington St. where people can experience this hot, new trend. 

Co-owners Kaleigh Fleischman and Nathan Woodruff are committed to providing a safe, yet comfortable environment where participants can experience this new version of an old sport. 

Fleischman said getting the business from an idea to up and running has been a long road for them, but totally worth it. She said it started out when the two of them visited an axe throwing bar and loved their experience. Some time after that, Woodruff threw the idea out to her and they ran with it. 

“It has been over two years since we started the business and started looking for locations,” she said. “Being so young, we struggled from the beginning. Few people took us seriously or some even took advantage of us. But, we have met some very supportive people along the way, and our friends and family have been great support.” 

Few people have experienced axe throwing in bars that has been on the rise the past couple of years. The competition has gone from darts to axe throwing where patrons throw axes at a wooden bull’s-eyes mounted on the wall.

Axe-throwing is primarily a group activity that is booked in advance, although walk-ins are accepted when space is available. Depending on the size of the group, an axe-throwing session generally takes two-and-a-half to three hours. The bar supplies all the equipment, including the axes. To add a competitive angle to the sport, many axe-throwing bars also have leagues.

The spaces where the axe-throwing takes place look like a stall or booth, of sorts, with high ceilings, heavy-duty walls and wire-fencing surrounding targets on the sides and top. On the front wall is a wooden target with a bull’s eye. Throwers aim at the target and earn points depending on where their axes land. 

Fleischman said their coaches and instructors “axeperts” who will be in every lane monitoring and teaching participants the throwing experience. Both she and Woodruff are trained axe throwers and will use their experience to fully train their axeperts on the safety protocols, laws, and throwing technique of axe throwing.

Before anyone picks up an axe, participants will be briefed on safety rules and given demonstrations. Fleischman said although there are three different types of throws, they will be using the overhead throw, which is the safest and performed with two hands on the axe. According to an article from NBC News, the axes must comply with National Axe Throwing Federation standards. The size, weight and length are all regulated. 

Fleischman said axe throwing as a sport goes back several hundred years, and it’s just now becoming a popular thing to do, especially in the bar atmosphere. She doesn’t know exactly how or when the new version of the sport got going.

According to NBC News, axe throwing as a sport isn’t new; in fact, might be one of the oldest sports in existence. Forbes Media says the first axe-throwing bar in North America is believed to have started in Toronto in 2011 when bartender and actor Matt Wilson opened an indoor arena with axe-throwing and drinks. 

Woodruff and Fleischman would like to thank the community for being so patient and understanding during their construction experience. They originally planned on being open in December, but the process has not been smooth or easy.

Fleischman said the business is progressing, but they are at a standstill due to the coronavirus. As a result, they cannot and will not release their opening date until they are 100-percent certain it is safe to do so. 

“With the recent announcement that all bars and restaurants can only do take out and delivery, we will not be opening until that is lifted. We are unaware of when that will be,” she said. “We know many people are excited to come see us and we cannot wait to share our love for axe throwing with the community.” 

In the meantime, people are encouraged to book ahead online to guarantee a time. Participants must be a minimum age of 18. Throwing times will vary by group size and availability. Fleischman said they are still working on pricing and shorter sessions. Walk-ins will be accepted if space is available. Leagues are planned for the future. 

“We are striving for a more relaxed and comfortable environment, hence the ‘lounge.’ The last thing we want to be is a late night drinking scene,” she said. “We are here for people to experience some axe throwing, have a few beers, and enjoy time with each other.” 

For more information about The Ratchet Hatchet, lessons and rates, call (716) 699-9892, email theratchethatchetevl@gmail.com, or visit online at theratche

thatchetellicottville.com, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.