Atlantic City is supposed to be a bad place to start a business, but you might not know it if you were a start-up LLC looking to open an axe-throwing establishment next to a whiskey distillery in a residential neighborhood, a business idea I imagine would be met with skepticism in a lot of communities.
The axe-throwing entrepreneur, Bill Hanson, is the boyfriend of Leah Morgan, a painter, who has a studio in the Arts Garage, and is what brought Bill out of the Pine Barrens and down to Atlantic City in the first place. He went before the zoning board Thursday with his lawyer, Brian Callaghan, who also represented Sean Towers and Amanda Cardinali, of the Seed Beer Project, a proposed microbrewery, that is hoping to be neighbors with Bill and his axes, in a couple of adjacent warehouses off Baltic and Delaware Avenues next to the Little Water Distillery.
Since there were obvious synergies between the businesses, Callaghan introduced Sean who introduced the Seed Beer concept: artisanal, farmhouse brewing in an urban setting, prompted by the burgeoning culinary and arts scene in AC. They plan to have tastings and a bar without seats, to promote mingling.
“Any other questions before I move to axe throwing?” Callaghan, the lawyer, said.
He introduced Bill Hanson, who apologized for not being a public speaker.
“But you can throw a good axe,” one of the board members said.
Bill, of Westecunk Axe Throwing, had brought along a cardboard prop, since people always pictured something big like you’d chop down trees with.
“This is actually a hatchet,” he said. “It’s not an axe. That’s a misnomer. And you throw a hatchet at the wall, try to get it to stick in the wood. And you do that for two hours in your own lane, and that’s the way it works.”
How do people get their hatchets to the venue?
“Hatchets will be provided by the facility just like…”
“Bowling balls,” Callaghan said.
“Just like Bowling balls,” Bill Hanson said. “Or golf clubs at a mini-golf.”
Hanson said there weren’t a lot of statistics on injuries but most of them seemed splinter related. Customers got training and had to wear appropriate footwear.
As late as last year, a different, larger brewer had been slated to relocate to the Inlet warehouse, but that project was contingent on Grow NJ money and did not come through.
Zoe Rosenberg, a friend of Sean and Amanda who wrote for Curbed, said she’d driven hours to get beer like the beer they made.
What about the axe-throwing, one of the board members asked?
She had friends who went all the way to Brooklyn for that.
Sean Towers said he was contacted by Mark Ganter from Little Water about the space. Sean and Amanda are 29, married (to each other) and Stockton graduates. Amanda was brewer at Tuckahoe Brewing for nearly five years. Sean is a microbiologist for Rutgers at the Aquaculture Innovation Center. Their operation is smaller than the one imagined by DeWalt (the Grow NJ brewery).
All together there were five applications for the zoning board Thursday, including one for a new car wash on Albany Avenue and one for a café or something (“The Bun Stop”) on Hummock and Hobart.
The zoning board approved both the axes and the brewery, unanimously.
“I’ve been sitting on this board for a long time, and I looked forward to the day where there would be five applications, and four of them are new start-ups,” Ronald Jordan, the board member, said. “That’s a great day for Atlantic City. It really, really is. We’re on the right track.”
“And they’re not in the Tourism District,” Tony Vraim, another board member, said.
“Thank you all for doing this.”
Afterward, when he’d gotten his variance, Hanson said he’d been nervous.
“How are you with being called the Axe Guy?”
“I’m fine with it.”
It can be easier to talk to younger people about his concept, he said. I think he meant Millennials.
“What brought me to Atlantic City in the first place is not the reason I’m still here. The reason I’m still here is because everywhere you go, you get support for a small business and trying to grow something out of nothing and, you know, being part of something bigger.”