For 5 Questions this week, the Herald speaks to Bryan Lee, co-owner of Northern Air Family Fun Center, at 1600 32nd Ave. S., in Grand Forks.
Q: Please tell us about yourself and why you got into this business.
A: I taught science at the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch for 10 years. That was in Minot. Then I moved my family to Grand Forks 17 years ago. We have four daughters -- the need for things to do in Grand Forks. My folks and I saw an opportunity with -- then it was called the Center Court building -- so we purchased the building. We had done quite a bit of research on other facilities, and just thought it'd be a pretty neat deal to bring to the Grand Forks area.
Q: You have ax throwing there. What are some misconceptions people have about your business?
A: There were all kinds of misconceptions about people, that people were going to get killed, and kids were going to be running through where they’re throwing axes. Another misconception was that parents were going to drop their kids off downstairs and they were going to come up and drink themselves into oblivion. You know, not to be able to drive their kids home safely. We're not trying to be a bar. We're trying to be a social place, where they can have a drink or two.
Q: How hard is it to hit the target with an ax?
A: It is a technique. For some people, they're able to stick it within the first few throws. The minority of people, it takes probably 10 to 15 throws before they're able to stick it. Before anybody gets to throw, we go through the safety things. Then we teach them two different methods of throwing. The other thing that we do is we wait, and we're with each group and we make sure that we're helping them get successful.You don't give them two minutes of instruction and then say, “OK, have fun.”
Q: What's the trend with places that offer ax throwing? Are these places popping up everywhere?
A: Yeah, this is an activity that's really sweeping the country. I have not checked the website since COVID, but when I was providing data for the City Council, when I was trying to get my beer and wine license, there were around 150-160 different affiliate members.
Q: What's been your biggest challenge through COVID?
A: Just being open. The downstairs part was closed for four months, and then the ax throwing was closed for three months. We got this all open four days before we had to shut it down for COVID. We've got things as lean as we can get them, and we're going to do everything we can to battle through.