BISBEE – The mile-high town known for fun and adventure now has another very Bisbee entertainment option, the Bisbee Hatchet House.
Tucked in among the bars and restaurants of Brewery Gulch, business partners Sarah Foley and Kenny Naico will host an open house of the venue on Thursday, April 28, at 11 a.m.
Naico met Foley at one of Bisbee’s haunts last year along with Kenny Bang Bang and struck up a conversation that turned to his love of throwing hatchets. His enthusiasm for the sport infected Foley and Kenny Bang Bang, who definitely thought a hatchet throwing venue was a good idea.
As the discussion of hatchet throwing continued, Foley thought of her building on the Gulch and on March 1, their partnership was cemented and made official giving birth to the Bisbee Hatchet House.
“What began as a pastime in backyards and old alleyways of Bisbee has transformed into an idea that quickly became the Bisbee Hatchet House,” said Foley. “Our unique space has become a popular place for locals and visitors to experience all that ax throwing has to offer.”
Naico is a longtime enthusiast of throwing sharp objects at targets, and it was not long before Foley was hooked.
“I couldn’t bowl, but I can throw a hatchet,” said Foley with a big smile. “It’s really fun. After I sunk the first one, I was hooked.”
Over the past six weeks, they have put hours and hours and hours converting the retail space into a venue that looks like it could have been there since Bisbee’s mining heyday.
“That’s what we were going for,” said Foley. “We wanted to capture that feeling and he did.”
There are four throwing bays, built like batting cages, that provide enough space for throwing hatchets or knives at wooden targets from a line about 12 feet away. Rather than a solid piece of wood which would have to be replaced frequently, he made the target out of individual planks that can be changed when they have been battered enough.
The restroom entrance is made to mimic a quaint old outhouse, complete with a little tin overhang roof.
Even though they are next door to St. Elmo’s Bar, they plan on being very conscious of whom they let in to participate to ensure patrons have a safe experience. People are encouraged to bring their own nonalcoholic beverages and snacks, though they will have some available for purchase.
Any person who appears intoxicated or impaired when they arrive at The Bisbee Hatchet House will not be allowed to enter, and a future credit for any deposits paid can be arranged.
“For optimal safety and insurance reasons, anybody who appears to be drunk or high will be asked to leave and come back for a future visit. We appreciate your understanding in this matter,” said Foley.
“Our goal is to bring more Bisbee history to town visitors and provide a space for people to come together in the community and connect,” noted Naico. “Nowhere else will you find a hatchet house like ours — with the quirks, characteristics and stories that you’ll only find here in ‘The Gulch’ of Old Bisbee.”
People will be able to take lessons from Naico and can quickly learn the method to sink a hatchet in the center of the bullseye. The space was designed with safety at the top of the list. There are expert teachers and guides to help people learn this game. Eventually, they hope to field a league and join in competition with other hatchet throwers.
“I can teach the basics, but most people figure out a way to throw it,” said Naico. “Much like bowling or archery, ax throwing is a point-centered game that connects you to the historic trades and pastimes of our ancestors. It’s competitive and fun – don’t let the idea of throwing a blade intimidate you.”
They provide the hatchets and axes in different lengths, but people can bring their own.
The House requires closed-toed shoes for safety reasons and request that patrons wear boots or sneakers. They suggest wearing comfortable clothes one can move in, such as jeans and a T-shirt, a long-sleeved cotton shirt or flannel.
Everyone who comes in has to sign a waiver for safety reasons, whether they are a participant or someone who just wants to watch. Though the venue they have created is extremely safe, they are not taking any chances should someone get hurt.
People will have to make reservations in advance, as there are only four bays and are first come, first served, said Foley. Overcrowding is not what they want.
The rate is $30 an hour, per person. Credit card deposits are required to make a reservation. Due to the high demand, refunds will not be provided for missed reservations. If a cancellation occurs due to changes in travel plans, for example, and they ask for a 48-hour notice.
It is best to arrive 15 minutes early for the reserved time slot so the session can start on time. If a party is more than 10 minutes late, the lane may be forfeited.
The bays hold up to six people, but for parties of five or more a reservation of at least 1.5 hours is required so all can have a go.
The Bisbee Hatchet House is kid-friendly before 4 p.m. for children ages 12 and older. They ask reservations be made for children before 3 p.m. There must be one supervising adult for every three children in order to throw and each child must have a parent fill out a liability waiver before they can participate. After 4 p.m., the House becomes adults only for ages 21 and older.
All areas and hatchets are sanitized between every rental session and the House has hand sanitizer available upon request. All throwing is supervised by the employees, who serve as both teachers and guides.
Foley and her husband moved to Bisbee eight years ago and live upstairs of the House. They came through town on a road trip and fell in love with the people, the culture and the art.
Naico moved to the Saginaw area of Bisbee from Tucson where he ran a carpentry service.
“I’ve known about Bisbee for a long time,” said Naico. “I was always running away from Tucson and I ended up coming back time after time. I never thought I’d be able to make a business from what I love to do.”