Stumpy's

Two women walk past a building at 924 Austin Ave., where Stumpy’s Hatchet House plans to open in the fall. Another ax throwing venue, Waco Axe Co., has announced plans to open on Washington Avenue in the fall, and developers have said a Schulman Movie Bowl Grille entertainment complex at I-35 and Loop 340 will have an ax throwing component.

Two groups are pitching plans to open ax throwing emporiums in downtown Waco. Both want to toss open their venues when the weather cools.

Stumpy’s Hatchet House and Waco Axe Co. have targeted relaxing to the thud of blade against board in introducing their concepts. Ax throwing reportedly is sweeping the country, offering an excuse to sling sharp objects while relaxing, socializing or hosting employee bonding events.

Not burying the hatchet, Stumpy’s and Waco Axe have charted a collision course, with Stumpy’s choosing 924 Austin Ave. and Waco Axe Co. bound for 1524 Washington Ave., their backers announced.

Commercial real estate agent Gregg Glime confirmed Stumpy’s Hatchet House will take a 5,000-square-foot slice from the 32,400-square-foot building undergoing renovation near Austin Avenue and Ninth Street. It reportedly will have a rustic-looking interior with long tables and leather seating for relaxing and reclining, eight tossing stalls, big-screen TVs, food service from nearby eateries, including “runners,” and BYOB accommodations.

Stumpy’s Hatchet House is a growing franchise with 12 locations but more than twice that many planned, including Waco’s and others in Fort Worth, Austin and Las Colinas, a Dallas suburb. San Antonio already has a Stumpy’s, its smiling patrons featured in a group photo on the Stumpy’s website.

Meanwhile, local entrepreneur Cory Dickman said he hopes to open Waco Axe Co. in 3,300 square feet between Refit Revolution and Bare Bucha, a fitness studio and retailer of small-batch kombucha drinks, respectively, on Washington Avenue. Dickman, a Baylor University graduate, has a track record locally, having opened Nexus Esports game room at Sixth Street and Columbus Avenue and Waco Escape Rooms at 711 Washington Ave.

“October 1 is my optimistic deadline to get open, December 1 is my fall-back date,” Dickman said. “I knew about Stumpy’s. I think their space is more presentable, their ceilings will be higher. It will look cool. But I think I have a pretty good grasp of entertainment in Waco. Nexus and Waco Escape Rooms are hitting their stride, and the addition of Waco Axe Company will create kind of an entertainment hub. We will emphasize having leagues, so our lanes, eight of them, will meet those regulations.”

Dickman said he recruited Thomas Ellis, a former U.S. Army Ranger he met at Baylor University, to oversee day-to-day operations.

“He had moved to West Texas, where he worked for a metal recycling plant, and he had to decide between Waco and Knoxville, Tennessee. I made a pitch, said, ‘Waco needs you,’ and he decided to bring his family back here,” Dickman said. “I try to partner with really good people. They can make or break you. I’ll find as many local sources for Waco Axe Company as possible. I’ll get the targets made in Waco, and I know someone who blacksmiths as a hobby. I can get him to make the axes. We will offer a fun, family atmosphere, with a 13-and-up age limit and partnerships with a revolving door of food trucks.”

He said he has not decided on how much to charge to play.

“I’m toying with $20 an hour, but nothing is definite,” he said.

Longer term, businessman Mark Schulman said his 90,000-square-foot Schulman Movie Bowl Grille entertainment center planned at Interstate 35 and South Loop 340 would include an ax throwing component.

Backyard roots

The Stumpy’s chain had its genesis in 2015, when friends Stuart and Kelly Josberger and Mark and Stuart Oliphant spiced up a backyard barbecue at Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, by tossing hatchets, according to the company website.

They brainstormed the potential of taking their version of hatchet throwing to the masses, and launched Stumpy’s to put people “slightly out of their comfort zone environment” at parties, family events and business functions.

Megan Henderson, who promotes downtown as executive director of City Center Waco, hesitated when told about Stumpy’s Hatchet House.

“I’m not sure I woke up this morning thinking, ‘That’s exactly what we need,’ but when it opens, yeah, I’ll be there,” Henderson said. “I’m surprised but pleased.”

Stumpy’s, she said, “appears to be novel recreation for adults.”

Local friends Shawnna Latino and Michelle Irwin are collaborating on Stumpy’s.

Latino said by phone that she believes Stumpy’s will fill a void. It will provide a place to unwind and socialize in a unique, upscale setting. Stumpy’s will have a limited menu, but Latino hopes to recruit local restaurants to offer meal service. Guests so inclined are invited to BYOB, Latino said.

“There has been a lot of buzz about hatchet houses and their growing popularity, and we would like to bring the first one to this market,” Irwin said. “We will primarily be for those 18 and older, but families have reached out and inquired about youngsters, saying, ‘What about this age?’ We will be open to different things, but as I said, our main focus will be adults.

‘Upscale’ aims

“We hope to bring value to the downtown experience, maybe partner with local breweries on a few activities, perhaps get the food trucks involved. This will be an upscale entertainment venue. Leather seating, big-screen TVs for those who want to watch the Baylor game while they’re here. We’ll ice down drinks. We’ll order food, even send runners after those orders if necessary.”

She said guests will sign waivers before tossing the hatchets.

Rates typically will run $20 to $40, depending on length of stay. The Waco Stumpy’s, as those in other markets, will have eight tossing areas or pits. Stumpy’s locations typically open Wednesday through weekends.

Irwin said she and her husband, Scott, flew to New Jersey to visit the first Stumpy’s after researching the company. She said they were impressed with ownership, other franchisees they met and the corporate philosophy.

Latino said Stumpy’s will open this fall, possibly in October or November, after the business partners personalize their space at 924 Austin Ave.

With the Stumpy’s commitment in hand, Glime said he now will pursue users for the balance of the building owned by Kevin and Noelle Baker.

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