Published by KIMBERLY FORNEK in The Chicago Tribune
A mother and her daughters, a group of women, a group of men and two young women who needed a substitute when the concert they planned to attend was canceled all ended up throwing axes recently in Elmhurst.
They were at Throw Nation, a new bar that offers activities including smashing plates with a baseball, throwing axes at a wooden target, and knocking down bowling pins with a football.
The games are unusual to say the least, and might seem even violent.
But Gail Mikucki said she had no trouble convincing about five other women, whose children all attend Hawthorne Elementary School in Elmhurst, to give the new place a try.
“I asked, ‘Do you guys want to go and throw axes and stuff?’” Mikucki said.
Before a customer throws an ax, instructors, called axe-perts, explain the game and safety rules, such as ax throwers cannot wear open-toed shoes and players must set the ax in a bucket after each throw, rather than hand the ax or take an ax from another player.
In no time at all, Mikucki and her friends were raising their fists in the air in triumph when their ax hit the bulls-eye on the wooden target.
“I think we have a lot of aggression or anxiety,” Mikucki said.
“There is something satisfying about going out and smashing something,” said Rex Lundstrom, the associate producer at Throw Nation, who acts as the manager. “It’s primitive.”
Lundstrom theorized that many people spend much of their workday seated at a desk, staring at a computer screen.
“I think people don’t get to release whatever tension they have,” Lundstrom said. “They need to get out and move.”
He also believes when friends get together they want to do more than drink and talk.
“We’re on social media so much, everyone is communicating all the time. You’re not breaking any news to anybody at the bar,” Lundstrom said.
Mikucki and her friends, however, had no trouble doing both, keeping a running conversation going in between ax throws.
Kattie LeDuc of Schiller Park was enjoying a night out with her grown daughters, while her husband and grandson were at a Monster Jam truck show.
Her daughter Mackenzie Leduc had thrown axes before in another locale and described it as “a more exciting version of darts.”
“It’s a fun thing to do and kind of physical,” she said.
Her mother said at first the idea of throwing an ax for fun was terrifying, but she was willing to give it a try.
Greg Schwartz was at Throw Nation for a guys night out with 10 other fathers of children at Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove.
“This is a ton of fun and a nice change of pace,” Schwartz said.
The staff explain various ax-throwing competitions, and the winner gets a “Lumberlord” stamp inked almost anywhere on his or her body.
Will Fiedler of Downers Grove, who was in Schwartz’s group, had his forearm stamped when he won the honor by beating the other fathers in a double-elimination.
The men also enjoyed a rowdier game of foot bowling in which they knocked down bowling pins by hitting them with a football. If the football bounced before it hit the pins, the opposing players can scramble to pick up the ball, like an onside kick in football, Schwartz explained.
Lundstrom expects a lot of businesses will be interested in booking corporate team building events at Throw Nation. Groups also can hold fundraisers, with 50 percent of the ticket sales going to their cause, Lundstrom said.
In the fall, he plans to set up leagues for ax throwing, too. But walk-in customers will always be welcome.
Driving by on Lake Street, Melissa Pham and Mary Flemming of Addison had seen the restaurant’s sign. So when the concert they had planned to attend was rained out, they headed to Throw Nation. They opted for the first game that became available and were trying to knock down bottles with a soft Frisbee-shaped disc.
Brothers Lukasz and Damian Pikul came for the ax throwing one evening. But once Damian saw the interior, with the large bar, tables, chairs and the variety of activities, he was impressed.
“The atmosphere looks great. I definitely want to try out all the games,” Damian Pikul said.
Address: 630 W. Lake St., Elmhurst