Hoping to become a new attraction for downtown Hattiesburg, the Alley Cats Southern Axe Throwing Company officially opened its doors on Monday.
Despite having to delay opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, owners Wade and Ramona Wicht hope that their new business will provide an economic boost to the downtown area.
The Wichts, who are both professional counselors and owners of The Cornerstone Group, decided to attempt the new venture after Ramona’s brother jokingly mentioned the idea.
“My redneck brother from Indiana said that we should open an axe-throwing bar,” Ramona said. “We just burst out laughing and thought there was no way. He showed us some videos of himself and my nephews throwing axes up in the north, and we thought it was a perfect idea. Hattiesburg is just cool enough for some axe-throwing.”
The Wichts bought the building, which is at 220 W. Pine St., from Wade’s father’s law firm.
“I grew up here in Hattiesburg, and the buildings that we bought … we bought from my dad and his law partners, so I actually grew up in these buildings when I was a kid,” Wade said. “They are stuck in the 1970s. But because of codes with the city, we have had to update things, and because of how old they are, we were able to grandfather in a lot of things that retain a character like no other.”
The nostalgic look of the building is something that both Ramona and Wade take pride in.
“We started with a space that was filled with storage junk,” Ramona said. “We moved all the storage out, and we had a blank slate, but we also had gorgeous brick intact and behind the bar. It will bring a really cool vibe with already a great downtown area.”
With the pandemic delaying their original March opening date, the Wichts instead developed several homemade projects for its interior. The most notable addition is the pinewood bar table, and Wade handcrafted almost all of the wooden features.
“Obviously, COVID-19 encroached on everything in the country, but that actually was a blessing for us because we really made this venue something special and put the finishing touches on it,” Ramona said. “We cannot wait to have people walk through the doors.”
The bar itself will have nine axe-throwing areas, which will include “axe-perts” who are designated coaches. They will teach customers how to throw an axe and ensure people follow safety guidelines. A one-hour session costs $25.
“It’s family friendly here,” Ramona said. “(Age) 13 and up can throw axes. For anybody under that age, we have velcro axe-throwing available … and we also have a little area where kids can do a coloring contest.”
Alley Cats also has a mobile unit called the Stray Cat that can be rented for events or private parties. It includes two “axe-perts” and costs $275 per hour to rent. There is a two-hour minimum for the Stray Cat, the owners noted.
The business will also include menus from all the downtown restaurants.
“We really want people to go to downtown establishments and eat local, so we’ll have all the menus so that they can either go have a meal before or after they come to see us ... or they can order in,” Ramona said. “We are completely fine with that. We do not have a kitchen. We offer bar food, snacks, drinks and axe-throwing.”
The owners hope their new business drives visitors to Hattiesburg for a unique experience and then prompts visitors to explore the city.
“We want to drive business,” Wade said. “We want to provide a family-friendly business where corporations, family and friends can hang out and have a good time and just enjoy a new exciting venture in Hattiesburg. We are hoping to just provide activities and entertainment that drive people from not just west Hattiesburg or within walking distance but from outside the area. We hope they’ll come in and experience what Hattiesburg has to offer.”