If you’re going to open a “Grand Throw House,” it’s best to do it on Grand Island. That was the thought of two competitive hatchet (“axe”) throwers, Stephanie Foster and Ashly Thompson. Stephanie, who hails from the Island teamed up with Ashly, who is Canadian, when the two began to travel the US pre-pandemic, attending tournaments. Before long, the idea was hatched to open their own “throw house,” which seemed natural since there was no issue with the Canadian border… yet.
“At the time, I was crossing the Canadian border 4 times a week, to throw up there,” Stephanie told me. “And Ashly would come across to the US to play in tournaments. We are doubles partners, often throwing two axes at the same time at a single target. Since the pandemic, it’s been challenging because she’s Canadian, due to the limited border crossing. Before the pandemic it all made sense.”
As the story goes, once you have a dream to open a business, not even a pandemic can snuff it out. That meant that it was time to find a location on the island. “I really wanted a warehouse space,” Stephanie told me. “With high ceilings, and close to home. I happened to stumble across a location that was just off the main strip. I wanted a spot that would be easily accessible for people, which is why were getting throwers from all over the area. We’re officially open – I think that the people that are coming to throw are interested because we’re brand new and they’re curious. I would have to say that 50% of the people have thrown before.”
I asked Ashly about using the word ‘axe,’ when it’s more about throwing a ‘hatchet.’ “Actually, we throw hatchets and big axes,” she responded. “We teach anyone that wants to learn, how to throw a big axe. We have plenty of space to do all of this – there are five lanes, spread far apart, because I don’t like feeling like a sardine when I throw – it has nothing to do with the pandemic, but it doesn’t hurt to have some distance from other throwers.
“I am extremely proud that we were able to open during a pandemic – we were supposed to be open last April, but getting people to work on the space (during a pandemic) was tough, which meant that we actually opened in August. Then we shut down for a little bit, before opening back up. Now we’re open, and serving alcohol, which is a big thing for a lot of people who want to go out and have a beer or a glass of wine. We also have some prepared food, because we have to (pandemic). But we really try to accommodate any of the clientele that books an event, so that they don’t have to worry about anything. It’s all about getting here and having some fun (while relieving some stress of course).”
For anyone that hasn’t thrown, a quick tip from Stephanie is “finesse over force.” Don’t overthrow, don’t show off, don’t be macho, and be fluid in your motions. That’s the best chance you have to ‘stick it,'” she explained.
“Everyone that works here is a woman,” she added. “Not intentionally, I promise. It’s just the way that things worked out. We have four instructors (axe coaches) available for people that book a reservation. There are only reservations at this point, because of the pandemic. We also have a league right now – it’s an 8 week season, and we’re on week 6. We have a 2 week gap, and then we’re back at it. We might have an additional league night next season depending on how everything is going. And we’re aiming for smaller tournaments post-covid. Our next target is to get college students in here, having some fun.”
With 5 lanes, 10 targets, and one practice target, situated inside a roomy warehouse on what is considered the world’s largest fresh-water island, Grand Throw House has got a lot going for it. Not to mention the radical axe-wielding owners who are ‘in it to win it.’