BY DAVID SINGLETON
When the full force of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation in March 2020, Mark Crouthamel watched business melt away quicker than one of his beautiful ice sculptures on a sunny summer day.
His company, Sculpted Ice Works, in Lakeville, Wayne County, produces custom carvings and other ice creations for events ranging from weddings to corporate functions, in addition to supplying block ice to sculptors throughout the Northeast.
A thriving enterprise suddenly stopped cold as the pandemic disrupted virtually every aspect of daily life, and Crouthamel wondered how he would continue to pay his mortgage and other expenses.
“To go from a business that supported that and all of the operations and staff to zero was pretty scary,” he said. “You only need a couple of months before you are pretty far out there in debt and you’re like, ‘How do I keep up?’ ”
Crouthamel found his answer. He pivoted.
For years, he had toyed with the idea of opening an ax-throwing venue to capitalize on the growing popularity of the sport.
When he received a Paycheck Protection Program loan of about $60,000 through the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief & Economic Security, or CARES, Act last spring, Crouthamel said it was clear there would be no resurgence in the ice business anytime soon.
He put members of his staff to work preparing outdoor space at the Lakeville property for a new venture: Pocono Axe Works. Indoor ax-throwing lanes would be added later.
By the time the state eased shutdown restrictions in Wayne County in early June, Pocono Axe Works was ready to open.
It was an immediate hit.
“Honestly, there has been an influx of people visiting the Poconos, and people did pretty well last summer. … People were looking for places to go, to get out, and nobody had anything else going on, so they are coming here,” said Crouthamel, who offered a league over the winter and has had to turn customers away at busy times.
Crouthamel, the owner of Pocono Axe Works, said while the new business has been a success, it is a product of the pandemic. If COVID-19 had not disrupted the ice business, it would never have happened, he said.
“It didn’t solve the problem, but it helped, and now it’s doing pretty well,” Crouthamel said. “With the vaccines on the horizon, I could look back at this and, if half of my ice business returns by the fall and the ax-throwing stays steady, I will have made it.
“And I wouldn’t have made it without everything that I did.”
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