Some say ax throwing is a bit like bowling meets darts.
But while the lanes, targets and hatchets are ready, what’s really going to make Las Hachas in New Kensington complete is when the kitchen gets running and brothers Brian and Zach Heidenreich’s mother’s Mexican green chili starts getting smothered on burritos, tacos and nachos.
The new entertainment venue at 1043 Fifth Ave. in downtown New Kensington — created by the Heidenreichs and their longtime friend, Brian Mangone — is expected to open soon. Mangone is married to the Heidenreichs’ sister, Melissa.
All three men are New Kensington natives and Valley High School graduates. Zach Heidenreich, 29, lives in New Kensington and is an engineer for Hilton Hotels; Brian Heidenreich, 39, lives in Shaler and is a third grade teacher at Roy A. Hunt Elementary in Arnold; and Mangone, 40, lives in Oakmont and is an information technology executive at BNY Mellon.
Residents started getting a look inside the unfinished Las Hachas at the second Fridays on Fifth event on Aug. 27. They will be open again for this month’s Fridays on Fifth this week, during which people can get five throws for $5. Those who nail a bullseye will win a Las Hachas T-shirt.
Although ax throwing has been around for a while, most who came through their doors in August had never done it before, Brian Heidenreich said. Those giving it a try ranged from his third grade students to his 92-year-old grandmother.
“A lot of people are nervous,” Brian Heidenreich said. “(But) it’s really addicting once you get the hang of it.”
Successful ax throwing is more a matter of finesse than strength.
“The trick is you have to know the rotation,” Zach Heidenreich said. “You’re not going to stick every one.”
Brian Heidenreich said they got the idea three years ago after visiting an ax throwing business in the Pittsburgh area for his wife’s 40th birthday, and at Zach’s bachelor party. It’s their first business venture together.
“We thought New Kensington needs a form of entertainment,” Brian Heidenreich said. “We thought we could fill that niche with our idea.”
They almost opened at another location in New Kensington, but didn’t — which they now consider fortunate since, as a fledgling business, they don’t know if they could have survived the covid pandemic.
The idea was starting to die when they went to Voodoo Brewery and met Mike Malcanas, who through his Olde Towne Overhaul has been buying and repairing buildings in New Kensington’s downtown.
“Everything fell into place, almost like it was meant to be,” Brian Heidenreich said.
Olde Towne Overhaul bought the building housing Las Hachas at the end of October 2018, operations manager Michelle Thom said.
It was built between 1911 and 1915. Originally a Montgomery Ward department store, it then housed Monarch Furniture and, more recently, Cheapskates Apparel, she said. It sat unused for many years.
“We obtained the building as an empty shell. Water had been pouring into the basement from the front and rear of the building for years, and the roof was in poor condition,” she said. “We first needed to stabilize the building and stop the water coming in, then we had to provide all new main electrical service, new furnace and AC, new gas lines, new plumbing, new bathrooms and bring everything up to current code.”
Thom said eventually they’ll find something to occupy the two upper levels.
Olde Towne Overhaul’s main focus has been to bring businesses into the 39 retail spaces on the first floor of its 15 buildings in downtown New Kensington before moving to the upper floors.
Brian Heidenreich said the building was perfect for Las Hachas because of its depth, width and high ceiling — and being near Voodoo.
While other ax throwing businesses are also bars, Las Hachas will be BYOB.
They’ve been turning to other local businesses as they build their own. That has included Stephen Baskis for their logo; Rick Radvansky of Alpine Ink for T-shirts; Rob Stadelmaier of Dogwood Metalworks for their outdoor facade sign; and Robert T. Sign and Design for window signs.
“We’re trying to keep everything in New Kensington,” Brian Heidenreich said.
They say Las Hachas is built around four “Fs” — friends, family, food and fun.
Las Hachas features five bays with two lanes each for a total of 10 targets. They were built to standards used by the World Axe Throwing League so they’ll be able to host tournaments.
“We started with a vision and modified it as we went,” Brian Heidenreich said. “We built it all on our own.”
It will be open for individuals to walk in and throw, while groups can make bookings. Zach Heidenreich said people already are expressing interest in forming leagues. “We get messages every day,” he said.
Pricing per person will start at $25 to throw for 90 minutes without a coach. Singles can walk in or make a reservation.
With a coach, it’s $35 per person for up to 12 in a group for two hours, and $30 per person for 13 or more.
Coaches and guardian waivers are required for those younger than 18.
Las Hachas will open as a family-run operation. They plan to hire more when the kitchen opens. They expect to have the kitchen operating toward the end of the year and fully running by June.
“We’re excited to be part of New Kensington starting to rebuild,” Mangone said.