The Yard in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood is now open for business.
When business owners Geoff Kretchmer and Brian Siegel opened Detroit Axe in Ferndale in 2017, they knew axe-throwing would be a hit, but they never anticipated it to become popular enough to eventually open a third location just four years later.
Joining the original Ferndale location and a newer spot in Sterling Heights’ Partridge Creek that opened in 2019, The Yard in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood is now open for business. The 8,000-square-foot attraction will be complete with board games, an outdoor patio and, of course, plenty of axe throwing.
“The Yard in Corktown is a phenomenal, interactive space,” says Kretchmer, 54, who is also president of event planning and production company Star Trax. He calls it a “combo” space, one that will blend the original elements of Detroit Axe (think: axe throwing) with a full-fledged kitchen.
“We bought an Airstream [trailer] and we tricked it out in the kitchen,” Kretchmer continues. That means The Yard, which has partnered with Ruckus Taco Co., will be serving up tacos, burrito bowls, nachos, churros, french fries and more straight out of the trailer, with a full bar nearby.
Like the Ferndale facility, The Yard will have 12 axe-throwing lanes. It will also offer a selection of more than 500 board games, plus fire pits for bonfires and cornhole on its outdoor patio.
Eventually, Kretchmer dreams of also adding an area for volleyball or a pool table, making The Yard a one-stop shop for all entertainment needs.
“It’s a fun space,” he says, “where people can hang out in a comfortable setting, kind of like a giant tailgate.”
Bringing Axe-Throwing to Detroit
After opening the first Detroit Axe location in Ferndale and seeing the success of axe throwing, Kretchmer and Siegel had their eyes set on finding a perfect location in Detroit proper to one day bring their business to the city.
“We love the crowd,” Kretchmer says of Detroit. “We love what has happened to the city, especially in the central business district.”
In Corktown, they found the ideal building that Kretchmer explains “fit their style,” and it just happened to be right on Michigan Avenue, which goes through the heart of the neighborhood.
“It just felt like our sweet spot,” Kretchmer says.
While Kretchmer runs the day-to-day operations of the three venues, Siegel, who serves as CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, is the creative mind behind the business.
“His focus is on the growth of the JCC,” Kretchmer says of Siegel, “but he’s our visionary. He’s our vision guy.”
Yet the two business owners share the same passion: axe throwing. “When we first heard about it, we fell madly in love with it,” Kretchmer recalls. “Brian and I, we just thought it was the coolest thing in the world.”
Despite encountering skepticism surrounding access to alcohol and axe throwing, Kretchmer says the activity is “incredibly safe” and that the Ferndale and Partridge Creek locations have seen more than 2 million axe throws without any incidents. “Unlike other sports where you go and nobody watches you, we’ve got somebody watching every axe throw,” he explains.
Navigating the Pandemic
Kretchmer feels lucky to be able to open a third axe-throwing location in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Partridge Creek opened just a few weeks before the crisis swept the country, the business was hit hard and wasn’t able to gain the same type of traction as the Ferndale location. It just recently began picking up speed as COVID-19 restrictions eased.
Since securing the building in March of 2019, Kretchmer and Siegel have been planning what The Yard might look like, though those plans were temporarily put on hold due to the pandemic.
Now, two years later, The Yard is finally ready for customers.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Kretchmer says of the process. As a new Jewish-owned business opening in Corktown, Kretchmer, who is also president of Tamarack Camps, is looking forward to The Yard joining a diverse group of restaurants, bars and more.
“It’s important, being in a diverse population,” he adds.
Throughout his four years of operating axe-throwing venues, Kretchmer has discovered an interesting fact: that almost anyone can participate in the sport, regardless of age.
“You don’t have to be a strong 24-year-old male to throw an axe,” he says. “My mother, who is 83 years old, can stick an axe to the target. It’s really for everybody.”