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The Coronavirus Economy: The axe-throwing business making the jump to digital

April 13, 2020, 5:00 PM UTC

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If a business is centered around groups of people getting together, then chances are extremely high it has been devastated by the shutdowns imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19. That includes everything from concert halls to restaurants to salons.

Some businesses—gyms and fitness centers, in particular—are trying to stay afloat and in touch with their clients via webcast, whether that be Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, or YouTube. But it’s not just yoga classes and personal trainers. Stumpy’s Hatchet House, an axe-throwing franchise with dozens of locations across the United States, pushing onward with digital video and social media further promoting the sport that has particularly caught on with millennials over the last couple years.

Fortune spoke with Kelly and Stuart Josberger, the wife and husband team who are cofounders and co-owners of Stumpy’s, for a new series, The Coronavirus Economy, to ask about how COVID-19 has affected his business and his plans for the future, and to get a sense of how he has been handling this news, both emotionally and financially. The following Q&A has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Kelly and Stuart Joseberger cofounders and co-owners of Stumpy’s Hatchet House, the first indoor hatchet throwing business in the U.S.
Courtesy of Stumpy’s Hatchet House

Fortune: Could you tell us a bit about your business? What kind of events do you hold?

Stuart: We own Stumpy’s Hatchet House, the first indoor hatchet throwing business in the U.S. We opened in April 2016 with our flagship location in Eatontown, N.J., and began franchising in 2017. We now have 21 Stumpy’s locations open (closed temporarily) across the country, and 20 more in development. Stumpy’s Hatchet House is home of the “social throwdown.” We specialize in team building, adult birthdays, corporate events, bachelor/bachelorette parties, date nights, and more.

When did you realize that the outbreak of COVID-19 was going to affect your facilities?

Kelly: In late February, we realized that it was necessary to add additional sanitizing to our equipment and hard surfaces, as the news became apparent that COVID-19 reached the United States. We sent out an email blast to our franchisees with a new policy on sanitizing and informed our customers through social media, our website, and email campaigns of the extra precautions we were taking. On March 14, we learned that two counties in Pennsylvania mandated closing recreational facilities.

On March 16, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced aggressive social distancing, and we made the decision to close our flagship location until further notice. Other New Jersey locations followed suit, and within a week, most locations closed. Our last to close was the location in Cocoa, Fla., which was not mandated by the county, but we felt it was the responsible thing to do to combat COVID-19.

What’s the plan of action while you’re closed?

Kelly: We are taking this time to educate our franchisees and tighten up procedures. Our growth was rapid in the past 12 months, so at first we welcomed the time to get business in order. Now, these Zoom meetings are also adding support as we navigate the CARES Act. We are also working on sending out a clear message to our customers that we miss them and will be there for them when social distancing is no longer a thing, and we can go back to the social throwdown. We are brainstorming ways to modify the business in order to ease the fears associated with socialization.

For members and non-members alike, do you have any recommendations for how people in self-isolation can get in a bit of exercise while at home?

Stuart: We continue to tell our customers and followers to stay home and to stay healthy. We’ve posted on social media about playing games, reading, and connecting in other ways besides face to face. Our staff from the flagship store has had a few Zoom meetings, happy hours to talk about how we are doing, what we are doing, etc. We are working on social media posts featuring our staff members doing exercises to get their axe throwing skills on point.

“We are working on social media posts featuring our staff members doing exercises to get their axe throwing skills on point.”
Courtesy of Stumpy’s Hatchet House

Aside from business, how have you been coping—emotionally, mentally—from day-to-day during this time?

Kelly: We have been taking one day at a time and building in “self care” time to cope. Exercise has been a part of each day, and we have also turned to learning how to meditate to cope. Our families are spread out, and we have had daily phone calls and weekly Zoom meetings to interact and support each other during this stressful time. We’ve taken a lot of walks, played a lot of board games, watched movies and Tiger King [on Netflix], and tried to keep the stress level down by balancing work and personal life. When the weather gets a little warmer, we plan to ride our bikes to the beach to find solace.

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6 steps to sustainably flatten the coronavirus curve
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—Listen to Leadership Next, a Fortune podcast examining the evolving role of CEOs
—WATCH: The race is on to create a coronavirus antiviral drug and vaccine

Subscribe to Fortune’s Outbreak newsletter for a daily roundup of stories on the coronavirus and its impact on global business.