When Tara Hampton-Radney took her husband to an ax-throwing facility in Washington, DC for his birthday in September 2018, she knew it would be fun—but she definitely didn’t expect to walk away with a new business idea to bring back home to Northern Virginia.
“We had talked about opening a business, I just wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for,” Hampton-Radney explains. “I had considered a coffee shop with live music and a few other things, but 10 minutes after we walked into the place I said, ‘Oh I change my mind, this is what I want to do.’”
And in just a few months, after over a year of planning and setbacks (the business was set to debut in November), the Fairfax County couple’s vision will come to fruition in Axes and O’s, offering eight ax-throwing lanes, a beer and wine bar with light bites available, arcade games and more Sterling.
While yes, the concept focuses on ax throwing, the 8,700-square-foot site is unlike any ax-throwing business in the region. Instead of the typical lumberjack-esque atmosphere with wood-based decor and surrounding picnic tables, Hampton-Radney wanted more for Loudoun County. Axes and O’s will feature an industrial, steampunk theme, music blaring through the speakers and an average of 120 people enjoying the space on any given night.
“Loudoun County is hungry for something different to do,” says Hampton-Radney. “There’s not a lot of different things to do. There’s restaurants, breweries and bars, but not really a lot of activities to participate in.”
Hampton-Radney, a registered nurse who experienced an injury that took her out of bedside nursing two years ago, equates Axes and O’s to a bowling alley, throwing darts or Topgolf when faced with concern that axes and alcohol might not be the best combination. That worry was exhibited early in the process as she and husband Alan Radney tried to secure a space for the project.
“I had people laugh at me and hang up on me when I shared the concept,” explains Hampton-Radney. “I even had people refuse to show me a property because they didn’t agree with what we wanted to do.”
A self-identified “planner and organizer,” Hampton-Radney has accounted for expected speculation, making safety a priority of the business model. Between the eight ax-throwing lanes there are dividing walls, fencing going up to the roof and a drink limit per session. There will also be a dedicated lane coach in every aisle to explain the instructions of the sport, show guests how to throw and monitor groups the entire time.
When guests aren’t throwing an ax, they can visit the bar or play an arcade game in the front lounge. The large space is also equipped with a meeting room for larger, private events such as corporate outings, family reunions or even bachelorette parties.
“When people think of an ax they typically think of a weapon, but it’s more technique than strength, and once you get it, you’re hooked,” says Hampton-Radney. “It’s only about two pounds. Women take to it like crazy because it’s such a stress reliever; I’m better than my husband.”
Since first announcing the concept publicly in August of last year, the couple has received interest from nearly 1,000 people, inquiring for reservations, private parties and even to host a wedding in the space. While permit approvals are expected late February, Hampton-Radney is shooting for an early- to mid-spring opening.
“For me to walk away from nursing, I still needed to feel fulfilled and like I was doing something good,” says Hampton-Radney. “I know I can provide a good time for people with this.” // Axes and O’s: 21680 Ridgetop Circle, Suite 125, Sterling
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