Within the confines of Stumpy’s Hatchet House, there is no sound quite as satisfying as a sharp blade connecting with wood.
Recently opened in Manheim Township, Stumpy’s, 401 Granite Run Drive, is the second business in Lancaster County to offer weapon throwing, behind Meduseld Meadery in Lancaster city, which centers specifically on axes and mead. Stumpy’s is a chain with eight locations up currently and nearly three times as many on the docket to open in states such as Texas, Florida and Virginia.
Initially hailing from Canada, the casual sport of axe and hatchet throwing experienced a boon in 2016 when Philadelphia business Urban Axes opened its doors in 2016. Three years later, the game has seen a huge surge in popularity for people looking for an activity akin to bowling, but with a sharper edge.
It was a chance photo taken by a friend of the inside of the original Stumpy’s location in Eaton, New Jersey, that initially caught the eye of Stumpy’s Manheim co-owner Joe Fritsche over a year ago.
“I was working for a telecommunications company in corporate America, and reorganization was happening,” explains Fritsche. “I wanted to get out, and not long after that, that same friend called me saying that he was opening a Stumpy’s location in Central New Jersey.” The lightbulb in Fritsche’s head surged with electricity, so he immediately called his wife, Tracy, and brother-in-law, Bob Grote.
Prior to this revelation, Fritsche had always had dreams of opening a brewery with Grote, who was one of the original owners of Lancaster Brewing Company. Beginning in June, the trio searched for locations, and within two months, they had found one in the form of the former dance gym, Fame. After months of renovation and preparation – complete with a “to-do” checklist from the Manheim Township Board of Commissioners - Stumpy’s opened its doors in February of this year.
“Manheim Township has been wonderful,” says Grote. “People had told us they were a pain to deal with, but they’ve been nothing but great for us.”
When you see the expressions “BYOB” and “hatchet throwing” in close proximity, it’s natural to raise an eyebrow or two. Upon entering Stumpy’s Hatchet House, you’re shepherded into a room to go over the rules and regulations with an employee. After a reading of the rules, another employee will guide you and your group through the ins and outs of proper throwing. Signs adorned with expressions like “Don’t be an axehole” are a reminder that it’s not about who can throw the hardest or look the best doing it.
“It’s all about consistent throw and distance,” explains Fritsche. “Occasionally, people come in here all keyed up, and coming in hard is just not going to work for you.”
Within two months, Stumpy’s was booked up for corporate events, birthday parties, and bachelor and bachelorette gatherings. The owners are looking to start a league later this month and venture into hosting cigar nights, brewery tastings and charity events.
“We’ve had young teenagers on our Family Days all the way up to senior citizens who basically said, ‘screw bowling,’ says Fritsche with a laugh. "There’s something primal about sinking a hatchet into a target. It’s darts on steroids.”