Jaxe & Jill’s kicks up the thrills

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 6, 2021

Story by Dawn Nolan | Photography by Shannon Shank

Featuring six axe throwing lanes, traditional table shuffleboard and Sjoelbak (Dutch shuffleboard), giant Connect Four and Jenga, dart boards and several TVs — not to mention a bar and food options — Jaxe & Jill’s in Hurricane, West Virginia, offers a lounge atmosphere with plenty of entertaining activities for an evening out.

“A lot of people come to hang out,” said co-owner Kimberly Zimmerman. “That’s what we see. People come in to throw axes, but then they stay to play shuffleboard. They stay to play darts. They stay to drink some of the beers we have on draft. They stay to eat, or they come in early to eat. They stay to hang out a lot longer.”

“At many other places like this, you aren’t able to come in and hang out. You come in, throw axes, and go home,” added co-owner Tonya Zimmerman.

The layout at Jaxe & Jill’s is also different from other axe throwing venues, which was intentional.

“In other venues, you’re kind of secluded. You’re over to the side or in the back. Our place, however, is a wide open space — even if you’re not throwing, you’re still a part of the atmosphere and can watch other people throw if you want,” Kimberly said.

Jaxe & Jill’s is located in a 2,500-square-foot building along Teays Valley Road, about 30 minutes from downtown Huntington and Charleston. Kimberly, a longtime hairdresser-turned-travel agent, and Tonya, a CVS Pharmacy manager, are sisters-in-law turned business partners. The two were introduced to axe throwing at a bachelorette party a few years ago.

“It was fun, and there was nothing else really like it around at the time,” Tonya said. They visited some other venues out-of-state, and then began to entertain the idea of opening their own place.

“We just thought that this is something we could do,” Kimberly said. “We wanted a fun place for adults to come and hang out. And, of course, we’re not just axe throwing. We’ve got other things to do. We just wanted people to have that fun environment.”

Though Kimberly lives in Barboursville and Tonya in Huntington, they were persuaded to open up shop in Putnam County after hearing from several locals.

“There’s nothing like this up here in the Valley; there’s not a lot of places for adults to come and hang out. And the more we started talking to people, they kept asking us to come to the Valley.”

The two opened Jaxe & Jill’s in February 2020. At the time, it seemed like as good of a time as any to open a business. But, they were only open about a month before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and mandates/stay-at-home orders started being put into place. They reopened in June 2020 with precautions.

“That was rough,” Kimberly said. “But thank goodness that within that 30 days we were open we were able to make enough to sustain ourselves for the three months we were closed.”

Working with family can often be difficult, but that’s not the case for Kimberly and Tonya, in fact it just makes sense.

“We had a good relationship long before we opened a business together, and that’s part of the reason why we did open it together,” Tonya said. “We’re good friends. We get along, and we did stuff together already. So, who better to go into business with?”

“We are a truly family-owned and operated,” Kimberly added. “My daughter and nephew work in the kitchen; my son, he’s the waitstaff. So, I mean, we’re all family here.”

Fun fact: Kimberly’s husband, Keith, built the tables and bar tops built from wood in their backyard.

For those that want to throw axes at Jaxe & Jill’s, lane reservations are $60 per hour with up to four people on a single lane. Bigger groups can reserve adjoining lanes if available. Customers are asked to come about 15 minutes before their session (walk-ins are also welcome) to sign a waiver                        and be seated.

“Then, we go over the rules with you and make sure that you understand what you’re doing and how to throw,” Kimberly said. “We watch everybody throw a few, and then we go back to them and let them know what they’re doing wrong and give them pointers. Some pick it up right away, and some need a little extra help. We see some men that come in here and can’t hardly get one to stick and we work with them and work with them. But their wife or girlfriend are throwing them left and right. Everybody gets something to stick by the time they leave here.”

“And we do have four different games, from beginner to more advanced,” Tonya added.

Synchronized lighting helps keep things on schedule. Green lights tell those to throw, orange to walk in the lane to retrieve the axe, and red to switch.

Along with date nights and nights out with friends, Jaxe & Jill’s is popular for private parties, and the venue can accommodate groups up to 50 people.

“We do a lot of birthday parties — it feels like one or two a week — and corporate events for team building,” Tonya said. “Some of the people might not want to throw, maybe they want to play the other games, are still part of what’s going on.”

During regular business hours, Jaxe & Jill’s is 18+ to maintain its more adult-oriented customer base.

“However, if it’s a private party, you can have younger ones in here, but they must be 13 to throw,” Kimberly said.

And if you work up an appetite, Jaxe & Jill’s has a food menu available for dine-in, to-go and delivery through GrubHub consisting of pizzas (traditional and gluten-free crust), quesadillas and appetizers that are made in-house. The buffalo chicken is the bestselling pizza, and the pretzels and beer cheese are the most popular appetizer (“by far,” Kimberly added). The pizzas are made with dough from Brunetti’s Italian Bakery and are hand-tossed and made-to-order.

“We also sell a lot of the charcuterie boards. We wanted to keep the menu kind of simple, but we do what we do very well,” Kimberly said.

There is a rotating selection of 12 beers on tap, with a mix of local and big brew. There are also bottles, cans and wines. If you find one you like, you can order a growler to take home.

“We have several people that come in here regularly just to sit down and eat and drink,” Kimberly said.

And for those concerned about safety because of the alcohol and axes — which Kimberly and Tonya say they get asked about a lot — there’s isn’t a reason to be.

“We pay attention to the people that come in here and how much they’re served. We have them a running tab in here. We can go back and look at it at any point and see how many they’ve had,” Kimberly said. “We’ve watched everybody to make sure that they’re throwing safe. And I mean, one of our rules it says that staff has the right to end your game if you’re doing it an unsafe manner or appear to be intoxicated. Fortunately, we haven’t had to do that yet.”

It all plays a part in keeping Jaxe & Jill’s a place where adults can unwind and have a good time.

“It’s something different to do,” Kimberly said. “And we just have a fun atmosphere.”

Jaxe & Jill’s is located at 3501 Teays Valley Road in Hurricane. Current business hours are 5–10 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and 4–11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Call 681-233-3188 or visit jaxeandjills.com for more information. Follow Jaxe & Jill’s on Facebook (@jaxejills) and Instagram (@jaxeandjills).