Whether the challenge of precision, the release of stress, or just plain fun, new businesses take aim at trend to throw things

Charlynn Robinson shows off some of the donated glassware that will be throwable and smashable items at Therapy Rage Room.

Story and Photo By Deborah Lynch

A new business that opened in late March in Mechanicsburg offers an aggressive form of therapy and recycling all in one package. It’s a double feel good. Go throw or smash a few flat screen TVs, old computers, or mirrors, and know that it will be recycled properly or donated to artists for their mosaic projects. Even non-customers can get involved — Therapy Rage Room accepts donations of old electronics, furniture, glassware and more. In this case, one man’s (or woman’s) trash is definitely another’s treasure.

Charlynn Robinson, a Navy veteran and part-time artist, moved from Charleston, SC, to Harrisburg where she had family days before the Covid-19 pandemic shut everything down in her new home. “The idea came from — like everyone else in the world has been frustrated by the pandemic in some way — me and my family not being able to commune and not get together,” Robinson explained. She said she and some adult nieces wanted to do a “girls’ thing” last summer, but didn’t want to go to a spa or get their nails done. They wanted something like a rage room where they could throw things, but found “nothing like this in our area.”

Meanwhile, as the idea was budding for Robinson, friends Cori and Grady Summers and Kati and Dan Dalton of North Annville also were looking for a way to have fun. “I wish we could say we did some big study and did our homework, but we went to the Stumpy’s [Hatchet House] in Lancaster with our husbands as a date night, and we had a great time,” Cori Summers said. “We said, we should do this in Hershey. We kind of laughed because they [their husbands] always have great ideas about what they’re doing next. Before we knew it, we were talking to the franchise.” 

The couples opened Stumpy’s Hatchet House at 515 Rear West Chocolate Ave., Hershey, in an old Hershey Company warehouse on Nov. 21 with a two-week soft opening. The grand opening was held Dec. 4, but they were shut down by Covid closures a week later. Since reopening in January, Cori Summers and Kati Dalton said business has been great. “Each week is better than the last,” Summers said.

As the name implies, Stumpy’s features axe throwing, and what has really helped this new business in tough times is its cavernous space. The building capacity is 550 people, but it features only 15 throwing pits, each with a limit of 10 people. Even at maximum occupancy, Stumpy’s would have only 150 customers. Axe throwing is also pretty natural social distancing. 

Also in late 2020, the Autobahn Indoor Speedway at 1001 Bosler Avenue in Lemoyne added one axe throwing lane in the lobby area, a concept that nine of the 10 franchises now offer. People waiting to race cars can throw five times for free if the lane with two targets has openings. Of course, the goal is to hook the racers who might start coming in to throw axes as well. “They fall in love with it,” Nick Knox, head axe coach said.

Joe K’s Brewhouse jumped on the trend early, opening Generation Axe in 2018 inside the 3523 Union Deposit Road location. Unlike the other locations, Joe K’s is a full service restaurant and bar with a caged-in area of three throwing pits surrounded by dining tables. Joe K’s owner Ron Kamionka also briefly joined the rage room concept with an enclosed smash room (eye protection provided) at another establishment he owns, Taste Buffalo Wing It & Fling It on N. 2nd St. That was replaced by a different concept restaurant in mid-2020, Taste Key West. The rotating taste room concept became a pop-up Irish bar in March. 

Since 2018, media outlets have reported the growing trends of both axe throwing and rage rooms. Rage rooms are also known as smash rooms, anger rooms, or break bars. They can range from rooms where participants can choose weapons (think crowbars, baseball bats, golf clubs, sledgehammers, etc.) or can simply “chuck” things. At Robinson’s Therapy Rage Room, plans include a room for throwing paint — and customers can get a canvas that allows them to take their throwing masterpiece home. Initially it will feature two rage rooms and one paint room, each able to hold four people.

Vice reported that the first rage room opened in 2008 in Japan before the idea spread around the world. Following a year of constant conflict for most Americans, the time seems ripe for a rage room to offer some relief. When Robinson posted on Facebook that she was accepting donations for items to smash, not only did she get responses to donate goods, she also got feedback from eager potential customers saying they wished “Covid was an item to beat the … out of” and “just let me know when you’re open. I’m trying to be the first customer to smash a room up.”

Likewise, as early as 2018, Forbes reported that axe-throwing bars were trending across the country. Most locations are busy, so it’s best to reserve in advance for one- to two-hour sessions. A coach (sometimes called an axe-pert) will go over rules, then demonstrate at the pit (one-handed and two-handed throws are demonstrated). Throwing coaches can be involved as much or as little as patrons want, but they are always close by to help ward off injuries or problems, and to help with form. At Stumpy’s, Summers and Dalton say that the franchise has found that handing off the hatchet is the most common accident, so they ask patrons to put the hatchet in the box for the next thrower to pick up. They’ve had no accidents since opening, and gave out only two bandaids — one for a splinter.

The combination of alcohol and throwing sharp objects seems a bit risky, but Stumpy’s has a BYOB policy in which patrons check their drinks with staff when they arrive (only two per person over 21 in the group is allowed, and wine or beer only). Staff, all of whom are trained in responsibly delivering alcohol, delivers drinks to patrons. Stumpy’s also allows patrons to bring in their own food including takeout (they have just a light snack stand), or they offer catering for group events. For promotional events, they bring food trucks to the parking lot. 

Axe throwing is more about precision than about power and throwing one’s hardest. Both Stumpy’s and Autobahn are hoping to get leagues started, which will definitely promote good clean throws that score points. Therapy Rage Room doesn’t have to be about precision, but it also doesn’t have to be about rage. “I just know that I have enjoyed unconventional entertainment and fun activities for myself and friends,” Robinson said. 

“We aren’t an official or recognized form of therapy, nor do we replace an official therapist,” she said. “This is just for fun and entertainment. We don’t encourage people to replace their mental health professionals with this.”

Kenneth J. Sutton, a licensed professional counselor with Anger Management Solution Services at 2843 N. Front St. in Harrisburg, says these activities can be a more emotional or mental aspect of anger management. “With throwing, it may be beneficial, but not one size fits all. For some people that may help, but to get to the root of the problem, I think it needs to be a combination of a cognitive approach.”

Basically, that means these new trends should be considered outlets for fun. To keep it fun, all of these businesses require participants to sign waivers, go over rules, and get some training before participating. After that, it’s time to aim for the bullseye.