Photos Rob Smith
“Don’t run with scissors!” That’s one of the cardinal rules of childhood, shouted by frantic parents everywhere. And it’s sage advice for adults too. However, Cartersville businessman Jeff Burke now turns that rule on its head by encouraging people to play with sharp objects. Game of Throwns, Urban Axe Throwing, offers folks the chance to learn how to fling a hatchet or a knife and hit the target in a safe environment, under the supervision of trained professionals.
From old barns to new ideas
Jeff Burke spent most of his early life bouncing between Illinois and Georgia. Born in Peoria, his family decided to move south when he was four years old, where he grew up just outside of Augusta. After high school, Burke moved back north to Chicago for college, and after 11 years of living there, he was ready to go back to the South.
“My parents had moved to the area a few years before, and I loved the mountains and surrounding area when I came for a visit,” Burke says. “I was able to find a job teaching part-time at Dalton State and began The Rusted Nail, a business tearing down old barns and building custom furniture.”
Burke now lives on the outskirts of Calhoun, near Ranger, and has changed course on his business venture. In September of 2019, he opened Rome Axe Throwing with his business partners. “When I opened Rome Axe, The Rusted Nail took a backseat as a business,” Burke admits. “Now most of my free time is spent in the shop designing and building pieces for my friends and family or just building something that just popped in my head and I feel like it needs to be created. Although I lived in the big city, I will always be a small town do-the-work-and-get-your-hands-dirty kind of person.”
Moving right along
More recently, Burke opened Game of Throwns, Urban Axe Throwing, in Cartersville, a town he has grown to adore. “I love the fact that there are so many new and exciting things to do in and around Cartersville,” Burke says. The town has blossomed with the heartbeat of rich culture and offers its community members a plethora of entertainment options with the Savoy Automobile Museum, The Etowah Indian mounds, the Tellus Museum, and Drowned Valley Brewing. “I can’t wait to see how it evolves and grows,” Burke says. “And the people are pretty great too! Everyone I’ve met in town is super friendly. They love seeing the community grow with fun and exciting businesses like Game of Throwns.”
When asked about business ownership, Burke is quick to admit he hadn’t really intended on becoming a business owner. “I started The Rusted Nail out of necessity,” he says. “I finished college with a degree in architecture at a time when the architecture and building professions were laying more people off than they were hiring. I was able to find a job teaching and began The Rusted Nail to make some money until the economy and the architecture field recovered.”
Burke soon discovered his work was wildly popular in the community, and he was able to build a business that thrived for close to a decade. He then knew it was time to try something new. “In the fall of 2018, while visiting a friend in Charlotte, North Carolina, I went to a local axe throwing business,” Burke says. “I fell in love with all things axe-throwing that day. The first thing I did when I got back to my shop was to find an old hatchet I had lying around and built a target that I could throw it at.”
Burke realized no one was selling axes specifically for throwing. Being an entrepreneur, he saw an opportunity and started selling axes online while marketing to axe throwers through TheAxeShoppe.com. “A few months later I decided to really look into what it would take to start an axe throwing business in Northwest Georgia,” Burke says. “I wanted to share my love of all things axes and axe throwing with the people in the area.”
With plenty of college-age young adults and families in Rome, Burke knew it was the perfect location to open an axe throwing venue. “Eventually, I was able to find a business partner to help get the venue started, and we are still going strong, even after all the COVID-related setbacks,” Burke says. “With Game of Throwns, we plan to bring the joy of axe throwing to a whole new crowd in Cartersville.”
As it happened, Burke already had a contact in Cartersville. “I had brought up the idea of possibly expanding with a second location to my business partner in Rome Axe Throwing,” Burke says. “He happened to have a friend who was part owner of Drowned Valley Brewing in Cartersville, who also owned the building adjacent to the brewery.
Craft brews and axe throwing go hand in hand, so it just made sense to partner with them.” Along with the Largos restaurant, Burke and his partners are hoping to make the East End district in Cartersville a place people can bring friends and family for an experience unlike any other in the area, with good beers, fun activities, and delicious food.
Customers will find more than just a fun time at Game of Throwns. The establishment boasts a talented, fully trained staff ready to help anyone enjoy axe throwing. “We currently have five employees, six including myself,” Burke says. “Kendall Craton is our manager and head axe throwing coach. He organizes, places, and coaches each group that comes into Game of Throwns.
Tiffany Perry, Rian Tyree, and Rachel Lockhart are our axe throwing coaches/bartenders. Each of them began throwing at my Rome Axe Location as soon as we opened in 2019. They all love what they do and enjoy sharing with our customers their love of throwing sharp objects.”
An experienced axe thrower will notice Game of Throwns looks a little different from many other axe throwing establishments. “When we were planning Game of Throwns, we knew we wanted to be different and really pave the way for what an axe throwing venue can be in the future,” Burke says. “The projection systems we use create a unique and amazing gameplay experience for customers. Unlike many venues that use targets painted on boards, the projection systems allow for various games to be played during a customer’s hour-long session. If you want to hit and kill zombies, you can do that. If you want to play Tic-Tac-Toe, you can do that too!”
Another thing Burke did differently than most axe throwing venues is the use of end grain targets, which display the concentric circles of the cross sections of trees. Not only do they last longer (using less wood, diminishing the environmental impact) but they also are easier for inexperienced customers to stick an axe into. This makes the axe throwing competition more enjoyable for everyone.
Every customer who comes to Game of Throwns receives a safety demonstration and coaching from an experienced, fully trained axe throwing coach. Burke and his crew want every customer to have a safe and memorable experience that will make them want to come back as soon as possible. In addition to axe throwing—for those looking for an added challenge—they also offer knife throwing.
Head Coach Kendall is their go-to knife throwing instructor. Game of Throwns is a great place to host a birthday party, church or business outing, or team building event. They sell six of The Drowned Valley beers on tap and can handle up to 78 people throwing at a single time. With their large bar, they also offer outside catering for groups.
“If you have an event that needs to happen outside of our venue, we have a mobile axe throwing trailer that can be rented by the hour for private events,” Burke says. “We also offer a VIP experience that will get your small group a private lane, a dedicated coach, and access to both axe and knife throwing. The VIP experience also includes a free t-shirt and the use of our high-end throwing axes.”
Advice to the newbie
To all who are new to axe throwing, Burke says, “Come in and see us! You can call, visit our website (www.gameofthrowns.com) or stop by and make a reservation anytime. Although not required, reservations are encouraged to ensure we have the space to accommodate you and your group.”
For those not interested in throwing sharp objects, Game of Throwns is still a great place to relax and hangout. “We have a large screen television to watch Georgia Football or even televised axe throwing tournaments,” Burke says. “We also have plenty of relaxed seating space for people to come in, enjoy a beer, and watch how axe throwing is done.”
For those starting a business of their own, Burke offers this advice: “Any potentially successful business is about doing something different and better than anyone else.” He adds, “Take something you love doing and find a unique way to share it with others.
You must also remember that even though you love it, it is still a business, so you must be prepared to work hard to ensure you make money doing it. If you genuinely love what you do and share it in a way customers will love it too, I genuinely believe the money will be there.”
To set up a VIP experience or to book a private event at the venue or with the trailer, customers can email: firstname.lastname@example.org.