“I got laid off early in the pandemic, ... and soon after we were looking for something fun to do, and we came across this idea,” Sam said, so they decided to explore the industry.
The Penningtons went to other ax-throwing facilities in the area, but there was nothing like what they envisioned between College Station and downtown Houston, so they thought this was a great opportunity to bring this type of recreational activity to the community.
Through exploring other throwing weapons, such as knives, stars and cards, and adding technology to enhance the atmosphere, they said they believe they found a niche in Cypress with the opening of Hatchet House in late May 2022 with Sam as the owner-operator and Ashlie and longtime friend of Sam’s John Pizzitola as partners.
“And being that there wasn't anything quite like it here in the area, that's the one thing that Cypress really lacked was fun things to do for families, for individuals, for couples, for all age groups. So this seemed to really fit right in. And so far, the public has really taken a liking to it. ... We've had a lot of really positive feedback,” Ashlie said.
The idea for using the projected game targets came from a paintball entrepreneur in North Texas, and using backlight in those areas of the facility seemed like a natural fit. Having TVs to watch Houston’s sports teams as well as music makes the experience different from the competition, Sam said.
“We have the standard targets with the bullseye painted on the backboard, ... and then also have interactive games,” he said. “They're projected onto a screen. ... There's roughly 11 different interactive games that people can play. So you're still throwing the axes, but you're playing different games, not throwing at the same target.”
The projected games are similar to other popular target-oriented online games, such as “Candy Crush,” “Zombie Hunter” and “Battleship,” something that no other ax-throwing business in North Houston offers, according to the Penningtons.
The business also offers beer, wine, spritzers and soda; snacks such as candy, crackers and chips; and games for kids.
Hatchet House hosts parties for individuals and small groups at $25 per hour per person for the standard target bays and $30 for the digital areas. Closed-toe shoes and waivers are required for all participants and spectators. The business sees about 130 customers per week with most of them coming in on Fridays and Saturdays, according to the Penningtons.
The challenge, they explained, has been to get foot traffic in earlier in the week. They recently changed their business hours to match those of other recreational businesses in the area and are hoping to get more business during the week as word of mouth continues to grow.
In addition to participating in the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce and leasing advertising space to other local businesses, the pair is very active in donating items to various local organizations, such as schools and churches.
“We do a lot of donations to schools and different nonprofit organizations ... to help out with the community as much as they help us,” Ashlie said.
Ax-throwing tip: There are three sizes of hatchets at each target bay, varying between 2-3 pounds. Aside from practicing safety in the bay, the Penningtons said the most important thing is one's distance from the target.
Hatchet House Texas, 11946 Barker Cypress Road, Cypress
Hours: Wed.-Thu. 3-9 p.m., Fri. 3-11 p.m., Sat. noon-11 p.m., Sun. 3-8 p.m., closed Mon.-Tue.