Stu Josberger and Mark Oliphant were chopping wood to fuel the chimenea one night in Toms River when they made a game out of throwing their hatchets. Their wives Kelly and Trish joined in shortly thereafter, and it became a fun backyard activity they’d share with friends and guests.
What started as a way to pass time with friends grew into the business idea behind Stumpy’s Hatchet House, opened by the shore in April 2016.
“We got addicted to throwing hatchets, let’s be honest,” Stu Josberger joked.
Nearly three years later, after $4.3 million in gross sales and an expansion to seven locations—most of them franchises—Stumpy’s is set for its biggest year ever.
Fifteen locations are slated for 2019, including inaugural locations in Delaware, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts, Louisiana, New York and California.
Locations slated for New Jersey include Bergen County, Delran, and Princeton.
“We’re really excited. We started out with two [franchise] locations in New Jersey, so that was really helpful to be close to the flagship for our first two,” said Kelly Josberger of the franchise expansion. “We’re really trying to have a hands on approach and so far it’s really working out, and we’re making some great friends in the meantime.”
The average time from franchise sale to location opening is six to eight months, they said.
Neither the Josbergers or Oliphants had a strong business background. Kelly was an educator for 27 years before becoming principal at an elementary school. Stu was a network administrator, Trish worked in men’s wholesale at Ralph Lauren, and Mark was a retired union carpenter.
“It’s sort of inspiring to people that you can have an idea and a dream and figure it out and work for it. A lot of the franchisees say that was what attracted them to us – we were regular people like them,” Kelly said.
One of Stumpy’s franchisees left his day job six months after opening his own location, transitioning to Stumpy’s full-time.
“I’m liking that. We’re seeing people have their slice of the American dream come to life,” Stu said. “It’s really fun.”
They each used skills from their previous careers to start Stumpy’s, and now use the same skills to help franchises get up and running. The Oliphants help with build out and décor, and the Josbergers support franchisees with marketing and PR help.
Staying involved helps them protect the brand, they said, and keep business moving in an upward direction.
“We want [franchisees] to be happy, we want the brand to be happy, we want everyone to make money,” Stu said. “We want to keep expanding with good business owners, making their dream come true and building out own little empire.”
The next location is slated to open in Middletown, Del. in the coming weeks.