By Michelle Tuccitto Sullo | June 20, 2019
Hurling an axe at a target is fun and a great way to work out your frustrations, according to aficionados.
Ever since Blue Ox Axe Throwing opened in Wallingford last year, the business has been gaining in popularity.
Now, the owners are hoping the unusual entertainment venue will catch on around the country. On Tuesday, the company announced it is offering franchise opportunities to qualified candidates throughout the United States. Franchise owners will receive training on “all things Blue Ox,” including marketing strategies, and will also get ongoing support from the company’s senior management.
Gerald Ferraro, Blue Ox’s CEO and founder, attributed the franchising decision to “booming growth and increased industry recognition.”
The company is also expanding its corporate operations throughout the U.S., according to Ferraro.
“Axe throwing is an exciting way to socialize with friends, coworkers, and family,” Ferraro said. “There is something certainly exhilarating about getting the axe to stick in the wood targets. It provides an unwinding effect.”
According to Ferraro, it is popular because it provides an alternative to the typical weekend activities.
“It brings back the human experience by getting people together to try something new, interact, and compete against each other,” he said.
Axe throwing originated as a competitive sport in Canada and has become popular in several major U.S. markets.
Ferraro first tried axe throwing in Minneapolis at his friend Graham Kelley’s bachelor party. They liked it so much they decided to go into business together.
“Within minutes of our first throw, we quickly agreed that axe throwing was an activity that would thrive in New England and throughout the Northeast — and we were right,” Ferraro said.
After they got home, they met with Ferraro’s longtime business partner, Maggie Slivinski, to pitch the idea, and she also loved it. The trio started planning the new business, and Blue Ox Axe Throwing, LLC opened at 21 B North Plains Industrial Rd. in Wallingford last August.
Blue Ox plans to open up a second location in Bridgeport this summer and to expand operations to multiple locations along the East Coast this year.
Blue Ox allows customers to bring their own beer, wine, cider, seltzers and wine coolers but no hard liquor. Customers can book lanes for throwing sessions. “Axe Masters” are available to give advice on rules and technique.
The company’s goal is to award five franchises by the end of 2019.
“We are thrilled to be in a position to award franchises to qualified candidates,” Ferraro said. “Our concentration is on setting up the franchisee for success. That being said, any territory that fits our business model can thrive.”
Several New Haven- and Hartford-area companies have used the business for corporate team-building and holiday parties.
The owners also attribute their success to their diverse background in business. Ferraro is a serial entrepreneur and business operator. Slivinski has worked in the corporate-liability insurance industry, and Kelley’s background is in internet cybersecurity sales.
Posted: May 08, 2019 3:32 PM EDT | Updated: May 08, 2019 3:32 PM EDT
WALLINGFORD - The Wallingford spot allows participants to book an hour or two of axe throwing in a safe, friendly environment. It is BYOB, but they provide tables, chairs and ice.
By NICOLE ZAPPONE | January 4, 2019
It all started with an idea, when co-owner Gerald Ferraro was away on a visit to his childhood friend’s bachelor party in Minnesota. Experiencing axe-throwing for the first time made him think that perhaps his hometown of Wallingford might be a great market for the trending indoor recreation.
In fact, it was so much fun that he and partner Maggie Slivinski couldn’t wait to bring the activity back to Connecticut and provide the opportunity for others to have a great experience.
Since it opened in August at 21 North Plains Industrial Road, Blue Ox Axe Throwing has become quite the Wallingford hotspot.
“Wallingford is our hometown,” said Slivinski. “With a central location in the state and recent expansion the town has seen, we couldn’t wait to be a part of our growing community.”
In six months, Blue Ox Axe Throwing has become Connecticut’s highest rated axe-throwing venue, according to Connecticut Magazine (which monitors such things). It is also apparently the second facility of its kind in the state; the first to open was Pine & Iron Axe Throwing in Hartford, which debuted in June.
Originally, axe throwing was popular mainly in Canada (you know — lumberjacks and all), but has recently crept south into the United States as well. Last December, Kick Axe in Brooklyn opened its doors, becoming New York City’s first axe-throwing range, and Agawam Axe House opened earlier this year in Massachusetts.
“We pride ourselves on offering a new type of recreation to adults in our area,” said Slivinski.
Blue Ox allows throwers to bring in their own food and alcohol (!), creating a welcoming and friendly experience. The venue can also accommodate a broad range of party sizes.
Each lane offers two targets, allowing competing participants to throw simultaneously. If the parties exceed 15 people, the group will occupy adjacent lanes to ensure plenty of tosses for each participant. All parties are private and by reservation, meaning the groups will be alone in the lanes.
Before Blue Axe opened, Ferraro and Slivinski anticipated that the demographic for their clientele would be mainly young adults in their 20s and 30s. So far that has been largely held to form. Blue Axe has also hosted a large number of corporate team-building and holiday parties booked by companies from the Hartford and New Haven regions.
Visiting Blue Ox is simple: You book a reservation ahead of time and show up with closed-toe shoes. Axe “masters” walk participants through safety protocols and technique. There is also a booklet of games for participants to use during their visits.
Blue Ox is open Thursday through Sunday. “Friday and Saturday nights are definitely our busiest nights of the week,” said Slivinski. “We normally have a full schedule for both.”
To learn more about Blue Ox, visit its Facebook page.