Boone adopts ax-throwing


Hiatt Ellis

An ax-thrower at Elwood’s Hatchet House.

Hollie Moore, Associate News Editor

Tucked behind the bustle of New Market Center, as drivers enter Boone from Highway 421, hides a building that took on the title of “Boone’s first and only indoor axe-throwing tavern,” according to its website.

Entering through the Elwood’s Hatchet House door, the smell of fresh wood and slamming of hatchets against wooden boards attached to each of the eight target paths greets customers as they enter the garage-like building.

Lauren Pipkin and her partner, Shannon Hobson, took on the task to create an environment for people to come throw an ax no matter how their week has treated them. 

Pipkin, a previously single mom from Greenville, came from previous small-business ownership. She was one of the founders of Juice Boone, located two miles down the road from Elwood’s, which she sold in 2019.

Elwood’s Hatchet House adopted its name from the middle names of two important people in Pipkin’s life, her grandpa and dad. Soon after moving into the building that used to be Winkler Knives for over 20 years, Hobson welded that name into signs across the 0.81 acre lot.

Pipkin said ax throwing wasn’t necessarily in mind for her next small-business undertaking, but after a venture to an ax throwing place with some hometown friends, she decided “it’s fun, and there’s nothing really to do in Boone in the winter except for like skiing or bowling,” and the rest is history.

Hobson worked at Elwood’s for a year and a half after it opened but then decided to enter into a full-time welding position, filling in when needed.

“I’m quiet and shy, you know. I don’t deal with people. I’m not a people person,” Hobson said. “But Lauren, she can talk to people. She’s a good boss. She’s a good owner. That’s her thing.”

Guests at Elwood’s can purchase food, cold craft and domestic beer. (Hiatt Ellis)

Hobson and Pipkin have been together for four years, co-owning Elwood’s for two of them. Pipkin’s two children from her previous marriage call Hobson their “bonus” mom. Hobson said she is “glad to fill the gap” of their father, who moved to Oregon shortly after they sold Juice Boone. 

According to a survey from Statista, 29% of the 600 small-business owners interviewed by Wells Fargo lost their business by the end of 2020, nearly eight months after COVID-19 hit the U.S. economy. Elwood’s Hatchet House wasn’t one of them. 

Differentiating Elwood’s from many other small-businesses, the business was only open for two days before shutting down for two months due to the pandemic. During that time, Pipkin got a job working for Amazon from home and Hobson ran Elwood’s for the first six months.

The pair reopened Elwood’s near the end of July 2020, welcoming private groups to come throw an ax or two. Pipkin said the decision was “really good because a lot of people that were coming in town on vacation wanted to pay just to come do something.”

“I think it’s turned out really, really good because we made it through COVID,” Hobson said. “I mean it was scary to say the least because, you know, I put in my savings. She put in her savings as well. But it just keeps getting busier and busier and busier.”

Elwood’s goes beyond people coming in for some stress release after a long day, Pipkin said the business hosted bachelor parties, adult birthday parties, bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners and a baby shower one time. 

 “I like teaching people how to throw and, you know, the excitement they get when they get their first ax stuck and stuff like that,” said Celeste Ramsuer, an App State alumna, and staff member at Elwood’s. “I enjoy throwing myself. Yeah, it’s always a good time.”

Ramsuer has worked at Elwood’s for a year. Her uncle, who used to work with Hobson, recommended her for the position. She worked there until the summer of 2021, taking a break for school and returned to Elwood’s in January. 

Ramsuer said her favorite part of working at Elwood’s has been the people. 

“When you get to interact with those people, it’s really exciting environment,” Ramsuer said. “It’s really fun, really loud, a little chaotic, and I just like the energy that people have when they come in.”

Pipkin said she has no plans to expand because “it’s a lot of work and a lot of investments” to open, so she will “rock it out” as long as she can. 

“It’s growing for sure. I’ve seen it grow from since we opened to now. I haven’t spent much money on advertisements,” Pipkin said. “I feel like it’s getting more word of mouth out and stuff like that. I’ve been happy with the progress.”

Cole Campbell, a regular at Elwood’s and occasionally a hatchet throwing teacher for newcomers, described the activity as a “fantastic stress reliever.”

Campbell has been throwing for 20 years and has taught it for the past 10. His experience came from volunteering at Hickory Ridge Homestead, owned by the same management as “Horn In the West” outdoor drama, which his parents had volunteered at since before he was born. 

“I received more gratification from seeing other people do it and enjoy it than I have for myself in a long time,” Campbell said. “It’s just, if you don’t have a good time, then you won’t come back.”

Campbell said they considered starting an ax throwing team associated with Elwood’s, but it didn’t materialize due to COVID-19 setbacks.

Along with Campbell’s knowledge on ax throwing, he also disproved the scenario often shown in movies where people throw axs to kill their opponents in war. 

“Any real mountain man would never throw his tomahawk. It was a thing done for sport and competition only in the Revolutionary War days,” Campbell said. “Taking a chance, yeah, you might get them. You might not. And if you didn’t, you just gave him a weapon to use against you.”

In addition to ax throwing, Elwood’s Hatchet House offers other activities guests can do, such as a pool table, pinball machines and more. (Hiatt Ellis)

Elwood’s is not limited to ax throwing, it also has two corn hole lanes, a big Connect Four, a pool table, air hockey and pinball for those not interested in ax throwing but still wanting to come. It also offers food, cold craft and domestic beer.

“Book a lane and grab an ax or just come hang out with us and drink a few cold beers,” it reads on the website. 

Pipkin and Hobson expanded into doing fundraisers, one being a summer camp for at-risk youth, who will be able to come in some days in the week that Elwood’s is closed, so they can throw axs.

“I know the grit and what it takes to do something like that,” Hobson said. “I’ve met some really cool people. I learned from Lauren a lot. I guess the learning process I would say would be my favorite part of it and meeting people. You meet good and bad people, but, you know, I’ve met some super cool people.”