A fun night out at Stumpy’s Hatchet House in Lancaster in February 2019 turned out to be a business opportunity for two Annville couples. Kati and Dan Dalton and Cori and Grady Summers opened Stumpy’s Hatchet House in Hershey Nov. 21 in a 13,000-square foot building at 515 Rear West Chocolate Avenue.

Kati Dalton said the two couples have been friends for over a decade. “Dan and Grady often talked about ideas for opening a business together — this one stuck,” she said, “We not only threw hatchets in Lancaster, but Dan and Grady spent some time speaking with one of the owners [of that franchise] about the business.”

Stumpy’s website describes its venues as “a place where friends get together to create memories by doing something slightly out of their comfort zone in a beautiful rustic environment.”

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Stumpy’s Hatchet House Hershey’s owners (left to right) Grady Summers, Dan and Kati Dalton, and Cori Summers.

According to Stumpy’s corporate website, Stumpy’s was founded by Stuart and Kelly Josberger and their friends Mark and Trish Oliphant after Stuart and Mark were chopping wood for a backyard barbecue and started throwing axes at log rounds. The couples soon realized they had a business idea. The first Stumpy’s Hatchet House opened in April 2016 in Eatontown, NJ. Franchises were offered that fall. Currently the corporate website lists 27 locations in cities such as New Orleans, San Antonio, Tampa, Greenville, NC, Columbus, GA, Middletown, DE, Towson, MD, Princeton, NJ, Manchester, CT, and Fall River, MA. The website also indicates that 10 Stumpy’s locations are “coming soon” including locations in Richmond, VA, Brooklyn, NY and Huntington Beach, CA.

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After deciding to become Stumpy’s franchisees, the Daltons and Summers set out to find a location for the hatchet throwing venue that’s billed as a “social throw down.”

“We felt it would be a good fit for Hershey. With Hersheypark, concerts at the Giant Center and the outlets, Hershey is a destination for tourists and the surrounding area. There are also students and staff at Penn State Hershey Medical Center,” Kati explained.

They found a former warehouse that has not only space for 15 throwing pits, but also a bit of history. In former incarnations it served as the Hershey Salvage Yard and the Hershey Transfer Station. A display paying tribute to its Hershey Company heritage has been incorporated into Stumpy’s Hershey.

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Cori Summers said it took about a year to transform the space from an empty shell without any utilities to the Stumpy’s one sees today. A Lebanon firm, Woodland Contractors, served as the general contractor on the project. “We knew because we were in Hershey, we had to have a higher end look,” she said.

“Stumpy’s has some requirements for the look, but there is some flexibility. Our Stumpy’s has an industrial feel, but it’s also a comfortable, cool space for people to hang out in,” Kati added.

She explained that hatchet or axe throwing as a recreational pastime has “a broad appeal; attracting men and women of all ages.” Guests must be 21 or over, but she said there are family days in which teens 13 and over accompanied by a parent are welcome.

Guests hurl hatchets and enjoy food. Each group of guests has their own throwing pit, which can accommodate 10 people. If there are more than 10 people, an adjacent pit will be utilized. Throwing pits include a seating and eating area as well as a designated area for hatchet throwing. Each person takes a turn throwing, and those that aren’t throwing are not allowed to be in the throwing area. “Since each party has their own space, it naturally lends itself to social distancing,” Kati explained.

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Guests can purchase snacks and soft beverages at Stumpy’s or they can bring their own food — from home or delivered. Kati said Stumpy’s Hershey does have agreements with several Hershey eateries in place for delivery. Guests may also BYOB. While the thought of BYOB and hatchet throwing may give some people pause, it’s done in a controlled environment. Each person entering Stumpy’s must go through a training session. Throwing coaches will provide instruction on how to throw safely and will monitor the game.

In addition to the throwing pits, there’s also space for private parties including corporate meetings and team building activities. “We’ve been open for about three weeks and have had an overwhelming response,” Kati said, “Given the way this year has unfolded, people are looking to get out and do something different. Axe-throwing is a great way to get out your frustrations.”

For more information about Stumpy’s Hatchet House Hershey including hours of operation, visit their website or Stumpy’s Hershey’s Facebook page. Note: Stumpy’s Hershey is closed until Jan. 4 in compliance with Gov. Wolf’s order to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

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