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A kick ‘axe’ attraction

Algona Axe House opens downtown

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Tim Zinnel, owner of the Algona Axe House, is all smiles in one of the axe lanes. Zinnel opened the restaurant and bar in February. On a recent Saturday, 82 people stopped in to throw an axe.

ALGONA — On a recent weekend, about 80 students from North Union High School spent their after prom at one of Algona’s newest main street businesses.

But the main attraction wasn’t playing cards or dominoes. The primary activity had more of an edge to it.

“They all threw axes,” said Tim Zinnel, owner of the Algona Axe House, 216 E. State St.

Ordinarily, having a bunch of teenagers throwing axes around may sound like a disaster. But at the Axe House, throwing axes is encouraged. There, it is treated just like throwing darts.

“They had a great time,” Zinnel said. “We also had arcade games and bags.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Tim Zinnel, owner of the Axe House in Algona, lets one fly at the target. Zinnel opened the axe throwing business in February.

With plenty of chaperones and a safe, controlled environment, the after prom activities went off without a hitch.

It’s exactly the type of event Zinnel had in mind when he opened the Axe House on Feb. 1.

“I thought Algona needed something different that families could go out and do something together,” Zinnel said, a North Kossuth High School graduate.

Zinnel moved to Algona about two years ago with his wife, Jennifer. One of his first encounters with axe throwing was during a visit to Nashville.

“We went on a trip with some friends,” he said. “I wanted to throw down there. Everybody had a great time. It kind of reassured me that it would be a good addition to town.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Tim Zinnel, owner of the Algona Axe House, stands next to a target after hitting the bullseye with the axe he threw at it.

He took ownership of the space in October. It used to be home to the Locker Room Bar & Grill.

Zinnel, a former employee of Union Pacific Railroad, said the building was a good fit for the business because of its tall ceilings.

“We needed a big space,” he said. “Really long with tall ceilings. It had the bar already set up.”

New flooring, a kitchen overhaul and paint were added before the opening.

“I did the work mostly by myself and with some family,” Zinnel said. “My brother and nephew helped a lot. My dad helped some. We moved some things around and built the axe lanes.”

There’s a second level to the business that can be used for parties and other special occasions.

In terms of the axe lanes, there are six targets. Customers must sign a waiver before throwing. Each session is an hour and 15 minutes. Cost is $20 per person per session.

“The first 15 minutes we go over the rules and show a couple different ways to throw and then you have some time to see which axe works best for you,” Zinnel said. “We help you if you need help figuring it out. We show you how to play some games and keep score.”

Zinnel said customers of all ages have thrown the axe.

“We had an 84-year-old lady come and throw the other week,” he said. “Families can do it. Or just a good night out with friends. A good way to celebrate a birthday.”

The youngest recommended throwing age is 12, but Zinnel said younger children have thrown.

“It depends on the kid and their coordination and ability to follow rules and if the parents are OK with it,” he said.

Zinnel said customers have visited from places like Humboldt, Fort Dodge and even Minnesota.

Aside from axe throwing, the business features a full bar and restaurant.

“On the food side, we do burgers — they are streak burgers, never frozen,” Zinnel said. “We do phillys, wraps, tacos on Tuesday. We do specials throughout the week.”

One signature item is called the Sap Burger, which is a bacon cheeseburger with peanut butter and honey.

Cucumber sliders and hard boiled egg sliders are among the healthier options on the menu, Zinnel said.

The Axe House employs about 25 people, most of whom are part-time.

Zinnel said for most of the employees, working at the Axe House has been a new experience.

“Just everybody getting into the right groove and working better together as we’ve gotten more experience,” he said. “We had a lot of new employees who had never done anything like this.”

He said he’s enjoyed doing business in Algona.

“The community is very supporting,” Zinnel said. “It’s a friendly community. Everybody helps each other.”

The Axe House hours are: Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Axe throwing sessions are offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Zinnel is open to allowing reservations during the week for bigger parties.

In the future, Zinnel has plans to build a mobile unit to be able to take axe throwing on the road to different events.

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