ALEXANDRIA, Minn. (WCCO) — A Minnesota couple is taking their business on the road to make money during the pandemic. The decision comes months after Dustin and Niki Knight opened their first location of United States Axe, an axe throwing company in Alexandria in March. A short time later, the state put restrictions in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We opened. We were ready to go. We went all in on our business,” Niki said. “Just a couple days later the shutdown was announced. We couldn’t even open, couldn’t open our doors. We had to get creative from the very beginning.”

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The couple pushed forward, despite concerns about the pandemic and its impact on business and family.

“We’re in the same boat as everybody else. Are we safe? Are our families safe? What’s happening?” Dustin said. “Not only that uncertainty, but when can we open? What do we do? Do we just wait it out?”

As the Knights explored their options, limited business resumed over the summer as statewide COVID restrictions eased. The coupled hired staff and expanded operations to St. Cloud in October. The state’s second COVID shutdown followed in November.

“The minute that announcement came, the phones started ringing off the hook for people that were backing out … canceling,” Dustin said. “Everything we put into that business, we just watched it all disappear.”

The couple said cancellations surpassed $5,000, not including returned deposits for Christmas parties and pre-bookings. The Knights scrapped plans to increases hours for their team and redirected efforts to mobile operations.

“We wanted to do what we do best and that’s give people a really cool experience, the best experience” Niki said. “This was our option to continue to do that and also just be able to pay our electric bill.”

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Because the business opened in 2020, the Knights said they did not qualify for relief from the state.

“The reason we didn’t qualify for state relief is because you had to of filed tax returns in 2019,” Niki said. “We were not open in 2019 so we didn’t qualify.”

The couple worked to have a mobile axe-throwing unit built to take their business on the road this year. The pair sold their bed and larger belongings, rented out their home and loaded an RV for the trip.

“We don’t want to leave Minnesota. It’s just our option,” Niki said. “This is our home. We love Minnesota.”

The Knights plan to live out of the RV with their dogs and pre-book mobile axe-throwing events outside the state.

“We’re going to be in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl week. We’ve worked out something with the Daytona 500 where we might be on the infield,” Dustin said. “We don’t just have brick and mortar here and there. We’re going to go out and see the country.”

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For more information about United States Axe, click here.

Shayla Reaves