Hardwick, News

Hucking Hatchets: Axe Throwing Opens Shop

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by Paul Fixx
Ax Thrower, Stephanie Lussier in mid-stride at Master Fin’s Ax Throwing in Hardwick on the evening of Friday, May 17.  Stephanie and her husband, Nick chose ax throwing for a date night after a day of working at their Maple Hill Farm in Barton. 

HARDWICK – At only 5 years old, Fin has never thrown an axe, but it’s his name that christens a new business in Hardwick where customers can do just that. 

His parents, Bryan Palilonis and Gabby Benham, opened Master Fin’s Axe Throwing on Route 15 in April, an expansion of their taco restaurant, Caja Taqueria, next door. “That’s Master Fin!” Palilonis called out on a recent day at the property when his son and wife arrived after school.

Palilonis, 46, said he came up with the idea of opening an axe throwing venue in Hardwick through his experience as a travel chef. “At the end of the gigs, like PGA tours and NASCAR gigs, the boys would go have a beer and go axe throwing,” he said. “It’s pretty big in bigger cities.” Hoping to provide Vermont residents with a fun indoor activity, he talked to the landlord of the building and began construction on the four throwing lanes and bar.

Palilonis and Benham have been in Hardwick for 12 years and run their taqueria for eight years. “This is just an extension of the taqueria,” Palilonis said. “We’re trying to draw people here to Hardwick, and it’s not easy.” 

by Paul Fixx 
Stephanie Lussier, left, after releasing an ax down the throwing lane as husband Nick looks on at Master Fin’s Ax Throwing in Hardwick on the evening of Friday, May 17. Nick’s father, Peter has been a regular vendor of their maple products and eggs at Hardwick’s Farmer’s Market.

After signing up online, participants get a 90-minute time slot for $25, a price and time limit the owners settled on after looking at similar outfits and thinking they charged too much for too little. The venue hosts smaller gatherings as well as bigger parties that can rent out the whole building.

“We’re all about getting 30 people comfortably in here and having a good time,” Palilonis said.

Players can purchase tacos next door and beer and wine at the bar, or bring in their own food and drink. 

What of people who might be worried about mixing sharp-bladed tools with easy access to alcohol?

“Then they don’t have to come,” said Palilonis. “You have to sign a waiver to play … Everyone that chooses to come in here, even if you’re not throwing, has to sign a waiver.” 

Master Fin’s Axe Throwing has several safety procedures in place, too, he said. The venue requires participants to put their axe in a holder after they are done throwing and not hand it off to the next player. And trick shots are prohibited to avoid accidents. 

During a typical time slot, one of the venue’s coaches walks participants through safety protocols and the steps of how to throw. If people are struggling to get their axes to stick, the coaches step in to help. In the background TVs broadcast axe throwing championships so visitors can watch professionals in action. 

by Paul Fixx  Four lanes with targets wait  for ax throwers at Master Fin’s Ax Throwing in Hardwick. Five year old Fin says he’s not old enough to throw axes yet, which his mother and co-owner Gabs Benham corroborates.

“We teach you how to keep score, we teach you how to throw, we have a couple people here who know how to do it,” Palilonis said. It typically takes about 15 to 20 minutes for participants to get the hang of it, he said. “Once they learn how to get it to stick or get a bulls-eye, it’s fun, it’s an enjoyable evening out.” 

Along with signing a waiver, players need to be at least 18 years old. Other than that, Palilonis said, axe throwing is for anyone. “We had a birthday party for some older women in their 60s, they had the best time,” he said. “They were having margaritas, a couple beers and some tacos. I think there were about a dozen ladies in here just last Thursday.”

He hopes people will get more out of their experience than just throwing an axe: “A good night out. A good fun time, not break the bank. If you come out and drink a beer, have two tacos, and throw for an hour and a half — 40 bucks,” he said. “Where can you go off of 40 bucks and have a good laugh and eat really good food? You can’t do that anywhere these days.”

Macy Isenberg reported this story on assignment from  The Hardwick Gazette. The Community News Service is a program in which University of Vermont students work with professional editors to provide content for local news outlets at no cost.

Macy Isenberg

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