BEMIDJI – Melissa Olson’s desire to open Hatchet House began four years ago when she was looking for a place to celebrate her twin sons’ 9th birthday after recently moving to Bemidji.
After researching venues in the area and finding themselves with few options for adults and children to enjoy themselves in a fun atmosphere, Olson was motivated to start her own business to boost Bemidji’s family festivities.
While she researched all indoor recreational activities, from trampoline parks to bouncy houses, she knew the ax throwing business was right for her after speaking to the owner of the Northern Air Family Fun Center in Grand Forks.
“During the (coronavirus pandemic) I called Northern Air to ask about the business, they had told me how difficult business had been through the pandemic with their trampoline park and a number other companies in this same field were saying the same thing,” Olson said. “I knew if I was going to bring a new business to Bemidji, it would have to be something that would last through another potential pandemic.”
During their chat, he also told Olson about the new ax throwing section of his park. Even though COVID restrictions limited access to trampolines, he said ax throwing was the attraction that got him through it.
“The way an ax throwing site is laid out, even half full, the numbers still made sense,” Olson said, “and it’s fitting to bring an ax throwing site to lumberjack country.”
She got to work and started building prototypes in her backyard to see if the sport would pass the ultimate test – entertaining her sons.
“They loved it, it was really fun to have our own set up at home and every time we had people I saw the interest they had and they always told me how great it was. was fun,” Olson said. “I wanted to do something that moved away from the electronics that kids are glued to and provide physical activity that is proven to increase endorphins.”
Gearing up from his criminal justice background as a child advocate and running the Beltrami County Diversion Program, Olson decided to become a small business owner and opened the Hatchet House in early April at 200 Paul Bunyan Drive S. Unit 3, in downtown Bemidji. .
In addition to state-of-the-art ax throwing, she made sure there would be activities for all to enjoy, such as foosball, shuffleboard, cornhole, ring toss , giant Jenga and a full bar.
Although Olson announced the Hatchet House earlier this summer, she delayed a grand opening event, expecting many of her potential customers – especially students – to leave for the summer to go back home. Additionally, as an indoor recreation club, it also anticipated that many residents of Bemidji would spend their time in good weather enjoying the outdoor attractions the town has to offer.
“I waited to have our grand opening when college classes resumed, I wanted to orient (the event) around the community as they returned from the summer activities they were doing,” Olson said. “I let the summer months pass to put my feet on the ground and get a feel for everything.”
The smell of grilled hot dogs and fresh sweet corn filled the venue’s parking lot as community members gathered for the long-awaited opening event on Sunday, September 11. The event began with a ribbon cutting followed by a cornhole tournament and raffle prizes as the Vikings vs. Packers game aired on TVs, along with plenty of ax throwing.
Olson can guarantee that every time customers walk through the doors of Hatchet House, they will be well taken care of. She said a lot of people think they have to learn the art of ax throwing on their own when they come, but that’s not the case.
“We have a strong staff, which I’m fortunate in because I know our community struggles in this area,” Olson said. “Some people are nervous at first, but we usually change the atmosphere quite quickly and try to put people at ease. We have throwing coaches assigned to each group.
According to Olson, ax throwing coaches double as servers, helping with everything from throwing tips, game setup, drinks and food so clients can focus on the game. designated member of the group will begin by giving an introduction to safety and demonstrate a few different throwing techniques.
“We take care of all your food and drink so you don’t have to go out to the bar in the middle of your game,” Olson explained. “A lot of people don’t know this and are intimidated because they’ve never thrown an ax before, but when you come in and get assigned a trainer, they’ll be there with you throughout your experience for you. to help.”
Although the Hatchet House is not a full restaurant, they have partnered with Keith’s Old River Pizza and serve additional “Lumberjack Snaxes” like meat and cheese charcuterie boards and tabletop s’more kits. At the bar, patrons will find a wide variety of craft beers, seltzers, ciders, and wines.
“If you’re looking for something beyond pizza and snacks, I intentionally wanted to have it so people would still go out into the community to eat at another restaurant and then come throw axes with me,” Olson said. . “It’s a community thing, I brought this to Bemidji for Bemidji and I always want community members to support businesses in town.”
Besides the fun and energetic atmosphere that Hatchet House has to offer, what Olson enjoys most is watching the kids and his staff come out of their shells while they play sports.
“Axe throwing is actually really empowering for everyone and also comes out of their shell as a coach,” Olson said. “They learn a lot about themselves and it’s fun to see the dynamic of all the different personalities of the employees I work with.”
Strong, weak, young and old, ax throwing levels the playing field for everyone.
“When someone who’s a little more shy and soft-spoken comes along and they hit the bullseye and shout, that’s the best feeling in the world,” Olson said. “I always have a big smile on my face when I watch and hear people get excited when they get it. It’s such a fun sport for all types, you don’t have to be athletic or loud is for everyone and that’s what’s amazing.
Olson also mentioned that patrons don’t have to throw an ax, they can come in and watch or just enjoy pizza and a drink.
Olson worked as a volunteer firefighter for 13 years before opening Hatchet House. She knows what it’s like to volunteer her time to help others, which motivates her to offer discounts to EMS volunteer employees and veterans.
Sundays are designated “Family Fun Day,” where all kids under 18 can pitch for $10 and families can come watch the afternoon football game.
“Come watch the Vikings game with us, we are running drink specials during the games and hopefully soon our meat raffles will start,” added Olson. “I really like the energy that surrounds gathering for football games.”
On Thursdays, students 20 and under can launch at a reduced rate, providing a safe and fun place for students to hang out with their friends.
“I wanted to have a place where the community can come together and have fun, regardless of age, you can basically throw 8 to 80 in our house,” Olson said.
She also added that customers who come on their birthday can launch for free.
“This is meant to bring people together,” Olson said, “without costing them an arm and a leg.”
La Maison Hatchet is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursdays, from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Interested customers can drop in for one hour at $25 per person, two hours at $43 per person, and the three-hour house special at $60 per person. Reservations are strongly recommended to guarantee a lane, but are not required. Walk-in visitors are welcome during normal business hours as long as a throwing lane is available.
For more information about Hatchet House or to make a reservation, visit hatchethousebemidji.com or call (218) 444-2404.