Ox Indoor Axe Throwing has pulled out the knives, and they're hitting the road.
Earlier this month the Billings-based ax-throwing business expanded its repertoire to include throwing knives, something that regular patrons have been asking about almost since Ox's opening in 2019.
"It took a little while," Nick Richardson, a part owner of the business and Ox's general manager, said smiling. "We had some safety concerns."
Along with the knives, Ox will be rolling out a mobile trailer before the end of the year that can be hired out for community events, fairs, company parties or even backyard barbecues.
"We can take this out to block parties; we can do it wherever," said owner Mark Coxwell.
The flatbed trailer was modified to include lights, a waist-high railing and cages for the two throwing areas and targets. Coxwell sees the mobile offering as the next step in Ox's expansion.
Coxwell owns Ox with his wife Becky Richardson and her son Nick, the general manager. Becky and Coxwell both have regular day jobs and leave the majority of the business's operations to Nick and 11 employees.
Ox is entering its busy season. As days get shorter and the weather turns cold indoor activities get more popular, Coxwell said. In that way, the addition of the throwing knives happened at just the right time.
Nick Richardson, an accomplished ax-thrower, had to learn first how to throw knives before Ox could safely offer the activity. Once he learned, Richardson then taught the Ox throwing coaches how to do it so that they could then teach patrons.
It's an entirely different skill compared to ax throwing, Richardson said. It's also a blast.
"It's addictive," he said.
Whether it's knives or axes, the chance to throw something sharp at a wood target has its appeal.
On a recent Wednesday night, a crowd of students from Rocky Mountain College made their way into Ox as part of a end-of-term event giving the students a chance to blow off steam. The college had rented out the place, providing food and other goodies, and as students walked in they grinned expectantly as they watched other patrons slinging axes at wooden targets.
Ox has hosted corporate team-building events, group parties and even collegiate athletic teams looking to cut loose.
The Tampa women's basketball team in town for a tournament came in after a game and had an absolute blast, Becky Richardson said. And earlier this fall the Montana State University Billings men's soccer team spent an evening slinging axes.
Ox hosts league play and competition for the World Axe Throwing League in Standard Hatchet, Duals, and Big Axe. Now that Ox has knives, it'll be able to host league play for the World Knife Throwing League as well.
It's an important part of the business, Coxwell said. Earlier this fall, Ox hosted a regional league tournament for ax-throwing that brought in teams from five states. It's the kind of event that elevates Ox's reputation but also brings travelers to Billings, who then spend money here.
"The Chamber loves us for doing it," Coxwell said with a laugh.