First pitch: Ax-throwing business Northern Axeposure opens in Sycamore

SYCAMORE – Mike Gleissner of Genoa had never heard of ax-throwing until he visited family in St. Louis in October.

“We had a blast, our whole family loved it,” he said. “I woke up the next morning, turned to my wife and said, ‘We can do this.’ So we decided to start an ax-throwing business.”

Mike and Stephanie Gleissner own Northern Axeposure, 1170 DeKalb Ave., Suite 108, in Sycamore, which opened on July 23.

The family built and created everything inside the business themselves, including the lanes and targets.

Patrons can book sessions for 60, 90 or 120 minutes online at www.northernaxes.com. Walk-ins sessions are available if lanes are not fully booked. Northern Axeposure plans on offering Tuesday leagues in the future when health and safety concerns from COVID-19 are eased.

Each session reserves the selected amount of time for a lane with two targets. Northern Axeposure has seven lanes with 14 targets total.

Ages 10 and older can participate. Wearing closed-toe shoes is required. Snacks and soda are available for purchase, but not alcohol.

Each session begins with 5 to 10 minutes of instruction for new players, including how to hold, release and step while throwing an ax. Coaches walk around to answer players’ questions or to give advice.

Owner Stephanie Gleissner said ax throwing is similar to darts or skeeball with a target and rings with different point values. There are two small blue circles, or kill shots, on each target worth 10 points each. Northern Axeposure abides by the World Axe Throwing League’s rules and uses their standard axes. Lighter axes are available upon request. Players stand 12 feet from the target, and a line on the ground marks the distance. Axes can be thrown with either one hand or both hands.

“It’s something fun, unique and out of the ordinary that anybody can do,” she said. “You just have to be patient in the beginning. Just like in bowling, you can’t expect to throw a ball for the first time and get a strike. But it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it, only a quick warm-up. It becomes an opportunity for people to let go of their fears. It’s exhilarating.”

Rob Wise of Genoa and his family, wife Kristi and daughters Aubrey, 11, Mia, 13, and Olivia, 15, hurled axes for the first time on Northern Axeposure’s opening day.

“I feel like an outdoorsman, even though my daughters are throwing better than me,” Rob Wise said. “My 11-year-old daughter can hit the bullseye. I think it’s a lot of fun. I’d tell everyone to just give it a try because it’s a great experience. It’s like darts on steroids.”

Holly Lippold of Genoa stopped in with her friends and neighbors Justine Pease and Jean Reiss.

“I’ve never thrown an ax before and it’s a little bit more difficult than I expected,” she said. “But it’s easy to get the hang of it. We’ll absolutely be back, maybe with our girl scout troop.”

Chris Barber of Steward and his girlfriend Catherine Rozycki of Hampshire turned their ax throwing into a competition.

“It takes your mind off of things and your arm starts to hurt after a while,” Barber said. “We’ll absolutely be back. I’m thinking about joining a league. It’s a lot of fun to chuck an ax at a wall. You can’t really do that anywhere else.”

For more information about Northern Axeposure, visit www.northernaxes.com or call 815-991-9181.

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