UPDATED — Wichita is on the front end of a surprising new trend.
Blade & Timber, an ax-throwing bar, is coming to Delano next month.
What's that, you say? You're surprised to hear that alcohol and axes will mix?
“You hear that a lot,” says Matt Baysinger, CEO of the Kansas City, Kan., company.
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Blade & Timber is one of a number of concepts nationally that allow customers to sip drinks and wield axes.
"It is so much fun," Baysinger says.
“We want to give people shared experiences,” Baysinger says. “We really believe in the power of putting your phone down for a few minutes and be face-to-face with people.”
He says the company's niche is offering interactive entertainment that also is a shared experience.
"We've had a ton of success with that with escape rooms."
Then they built an ax-throwing lane for employees, friends and family, and Baysinger says they quickly realized "this is another really cool shared experience and worth building a business around."
They have Blade & Timber in Leawood and in Kansas City, Mo.
The Wichita one will be in 5,000 square feet of Occidental Management's Travel Air building at 535 W. Douglas. That's the same building as Milkfloat and Planet Sub.
"They like the downtown vibe and all of the activity that's happening in both Delano and the urban core," says Occidental president Chad Stafford. "They've had great success and really had a lot of fanfare up in Kansas City."
Occidental's Mike Tokarz handled the deal for the Travel Air space.
Baysinger says he looked at opening in bigger cities and then began considering Wichita because a lot of his family is from here or lives here, and he says he's grown fond of the city. He says he also likes the revitalization of the city's core and wants to be part of it, so he started talking to friends and family here about their favorite parts of the city and where he might locate a Blade & Timber.
"It was pretty immediate that we knew Wichita was going to be an incredible market."
Baysinger likens the concept to bowling except instead of balls hurtling down a lane at pins, 18-inch hatchets are aimed at wooden targets.
There will be 10 lanes for rent, which Baysinger says customers will be encouraged to sign up for online for an hour and a half at a time.
There also will be leagues and regular tournaments along with rentals for group outings and corporate events.
“We have a coach who’s with you the entire time,” Baysinger says.
He says coaches can quickly teach safe techniques and help people improve their throws.
Baysinger says education and safety are keys to the success of the business.
“We’re what I would call a no-nonsense facility,” he says.
If there is anything unsafe in any capacity, whether with axes, alcohol or anything else, he says, “We’re pulling the cord right away.”
Alcohol won't be immediately available until permitting is complete, but other beverages and snacks will.
Baysinger knows there may be a bit of a hurdle with people understanding the concept initially, much as he experienced with potential landlords when he started looking at Wichita properties.
He says they "were like, 'You want to do what?' "
Blade & Timber most likely will open the second week of May, and Baysinger says he's confident it will be a hit — no pun intended.
"There's really not much in life that's as satisfying as throwing an ax at a target and sticking it."
Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or firstname.lastname@example.org.