Chris Ross, owner of the new Total Axe business in Clinton Township, poses near ax-throwing lanes.

Chris Ross, owner of the new Total Axe business in Clinton Township, poses near ax-throwing lanes.

Photo by Deb Jacques

New ax-throwing business is no fad, owner says

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published December 3, 2018

 The 3,000-square-foot facility is located on Groesbeck Highway, near Hall Road.

The 3,000-square-foot facility is located on Groesbeck Highway, near Hall Road.

Photo by Deb Jacques


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Bowling and dart throwing are social activities that have been enjoyed for generations, but a new athletic activity is hitting the mark: ax throwing.

Chris Ross, 34, of Sterling Heights, recently opened his own business, Total Axe, at 44159 Groesbeck Highway in Clinton Township, in an attempt to develop a long-term clientele base that focuses on an activity that he says is no fad.

Ross learned the art of ax throwing about 10 years ago from his father, who is a member at Detroit Sportsmen’s Congress in Shelby Township. After a brief career in the automotive field and not really enjoying it, Ross left his job to work at Detroit Axe in Ferndale.

A former high school and collegiate tutor, he found a place for himself in an educational role as an ax master. His job consisted of teaching safety protocol, instructing individuals how to throw axes, and running games between patrons.

“I was kind of doing it for fun,” he said. “When Detroit Axe opened, that’s when I started taking it more seriously.”

Throwing axes is a lot like throwing darts or bowling, he said. The sport of ax throwing itself has been part of lumberjack competitions for decades, and it’s always been big in countries like Canada.

“I think, honestly, it’s similar to bowling and similar to darts,” he said. “Bowling’s been around 100 years, darts has too in some fashion. It’s just like darts, but a lot more fun.”

His 3,000-square-foot facility, consisting of eight lanes, will be focused exclusively on the sport itself. It will only be open for those ages 18 and older, and there won’t be any food or alcohol served. Lanes will be protected by fencing, located behind, next to and above throwers.

“At most of the other facilities around, you have to keep your head on a swivel,” Ross said.

That model is on purpose as a way to keep people entertained and engaged, Ross noted, with a focus on safety and league play. When people walk in, an instructor takes them through the safety instructions.

Reservations, drop-in and league play are all available.

The venue is open from 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

As for why he chose to stake his business in Clinton Township, he said territories are already well-covered in other cities around the region. Once he talked to township officials, he felt right at home.

“Clinton Township was by far the most receptive,” he said. “Their planning department was the only one to call me back without me having to hound them, and working with every department has been a breeze.”

Clinton Township Planning Director Bruce Thompson, who recently took over that position after spending more than two decades in the same role in Westland, said this example of indoor recreational use is something unique to the community.

“To fill vacant buildings, and not just on Groesbeck but anywhere — we have to keep an open mind, and we have to be willing to embrace nontraditional uses. … (The space is) cool, it’s different and it filled a space, and hopefully it’ll be successful,” Thompson said.

Ross mentioned how ax throwing has been viable, especially in places like New England and the Philadelphia area, for a long time. He believes that it is a trend that is growing and is still in its infancy. Paying for usage rather than by customer is a method he hopes shows customers he is in it for the long haul.

“I think that as long as it doesn’t become oversaturated, and you give everyone a good value, they’ll keep coming back,” he said.

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