Businessman plans to open Stumpy’s Hatchet House in Princeton

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If relaxing after a day at the office involves throwing hatchets at a target in downtown Princeton, then you’re Scott Kuppe’s customer.

Kuppe wants to open a Stumpy’s Hatchet House in Palmer Square next year. He and other family members own a franchise of Stumpy’s, whose other New Jersey locations include Eatontown. That’s where Kuppe first experienced Stumpy’s, at a surprise road trip his wife took him on in February for his birthday.

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He likened the experience to a “more thrilling” form of bowling.

“It was awesome,” he said. “Just seeing the place, there was this wow factor. I couldn’t believe that it was … something you could do.”

The visit sparked a thought of bringing the concept to the Princeton area.

“There’s a lot Princeton brings to the table, but one thing I think is lacking is an option for spending a night out with friends or a date night out, something that’s a little bit more thrilling than just going out to eat and then walking around town,” he said.

Kuppe said he is close to signing a lease for a location on Hulfish Street, in the former home of Zoe, a woman’s clothing store.

“We’ve gotten positive feedback from the business community,” he said. “I think the new generation is looking for experiences that are thrilling and new and exciting, and this delivers.”

He said he intends to run Stumpy’s seven days a week, open for 95 to 100 hours per week.

“We’re going to gauge what the feedback is,” he said. “If we need to open later, then we can.”

All hatchets will be housed on site. Stumpy’s will have a BYOB policy, so wine and beer would be allowed starting at 5 p.m. Admission during BYOB times would be for adults 21 and over, while at other times it would be 18 and over.

Asked if allowing alcohol in a place where people would be throwing hatches was a bad mix, Kuppe said staff would monitor the amount of alcohol people bring in “very closely.” Also, he said there will be “coaches” monitoring people in the throwing area, called the “pit.”

“We are going to be very aware of everyone’s capability for safe throwing,” he said. “Safety is really the biggest thing we focus on. Stumpy’s does a great job of having a whole plan to handle that, so we can maintain a safe, fun throwing environment.”

Kuppe, 32, a native of Pennington, attended Carnegie Mellon University, where he met his future wife, Alisa, a fellow soccer player at the college in Pittsburgh, Pa. They have an “entrepreneurial spirit,” having six years ago started a franchise teaching soccer to children, he said.

“We wanted to do something that would be fulfilling to our entrepreneurial interest, but then also not so time-consuming that it would take away from time with our kids,” said Kuppe, who lives in Hopewell Borough.

Municipal officials have said Stumpy’s would be a conditional use, akin to a pool hall or bowling alley. A land use application would be heard before the Planning Board, officials said.

Kuppe said he wants to open Stumpy’s in the middle of next year.

The timing of Stumpy’s looking to open in Princeton comes with officials wanting to make sure the community’s downtown has a healthy mix of businesses and is not exclusively restaurants or other places to eat.

Mayor Liz Lempert said the municipal economic development committee has discussed the future of the “retail mix” in downtown Princeton. She said the committee has explored keeping the business district “vibrant.”

“One of the trends right now is entertainment-based businesses,” she said of a community that already has a movie theater and other performing arts venues. “I think there is a concern that if all of the shops become restaurants, you end up losing that healthy mix.”

“I think the experience of going out to Princeton can really be complete by having this new, unique recreation option,” Kuppe said.

Lempert declined to say whether the combination of people throwing hatchets and drinking alcohol raised a red flag in her mind.

“I don’t know the details of the business,” she said. “I mean, I’m assuming it’s similar to darts or other games like that where, obviously, it would need to be done safely.”

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