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Owner of Brooklyn Express pizza joints in Irmo and Columbia plans axe throwing business

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Doug Ames poses in the future home of Chop House Axe Throwing Room of the Midlands in Irmo.

Doug Ames was once a minor league baseball player, a left-handed pitcher, drafted in the 1985 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Columbia-area native lived in Los Angeles for a while, but he moved back to South Carolina about 23 years ago. He’s mostly been self-employed as a marketer and entrepreneur because he “didn’t really want to work for anybody,” but he kindly declined to elaborate on his other businesses before he opened a pair of Brooklyn Express pizza restaurants last year.

What he’s doing now might be even more bold than trying to make the Major League. He opened his Irmo restaurant in August and followed with the Vista Location in October, despite the challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — and despite the fact that he had no previous experience in food service.

Now, he’s turning his attention to a new project — an axe throwing bar set to open in February, nearly next door to his Brooklyn Express in Irmo.

“If you would have told me a year ago I’d have two restaurants and an axe throwing place and another one opening up in a year, I’d tell you you were crazy,” he said. “But here we are.”

Despite his lack of experience and the difficult time in which he’s trying to establish his new businesses, he said he isn’t worried.

“It doesn’t work, it doesn't work,” he offered. “You move to the next thing. But I know this for sure, if I wouldn’t have tried it, I know it wouldn’t have worked.”

He plans to call the new venture Chop House Axe Throwing Room of the Midlands, and he said he may even try to connect with ESPN to make it a stop on the professional axe throwing circuit.

He eventually would like to open another axe throwing spot in Northeast Columbia, with another Brooklyn Express close by, so people can toss a few and then grab a slice in quick succession, as they’ll be able to do in Irmo.

Ames compared the axe throwing concept to serious cornhole’s relatively short period of popularity with the general public. But he isn’t worried about hitching a business to what he called a “fad.”

“I figured three to five years, we’ll have a great run doing it and we’ll have fun. Nothing lasts forever,” he said with a hearty laugh.

The pizza, though, is definitively not a fad, Ames suggested that as a food concept, it’s pandemic-proof, especially compared to something like a sit-down steak restaurant.

People always eat pizza and it doesn’t need to be indoors (he only has 12 indoor seats at his Irmo location) or at the restaurant.

Still, things aren’t going as well at his Vista location, Ames admitted. There isn’t good foot traffic right now, as many people aren’t back in offices yet. But the landlord has been understanding and patient, he said.

Catering’s been a big hit, he added, which has definitely helped.

“Even if the country doesn’t open up like they say it's supposed to, we’ll still sell pizza,” Ames said.

He also revealed that he’s bought a bright yellow food trailer that’s parked outside his Irmo restaurant, and he plans to start using it as a mobile pizza operation. On the weekdays, it’ll swing by neighborhoods. On the weekend, he plans to go to Columbia’s Soda City Market.

“If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you,” he said. “That’s a great quote by the way.”

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