6 SHORTS • Intercard joins the Smart Buy Program • 11th ARCA Bowlathon for Tenpins & More • Miami Lanes, OH, steps up to help tornado victims. • Bowlero picks up The Garage in Seattle. • American Girl doll goes bowling • Rancho Bowl, Santa Maria, CA, turns 60
BEYOND BOWLING 32 According to George
34 Focused on Success at Bowl Expo
40 Pinball Wizard of Wisconsin
46 Interesting 14
54 REMEMBER WHEN Summer – Comradery – Bowling By Patty Heath
14 FEATURE A New Chapter Rex and Kathi Haney move on to the next phase of their lives. 22
Rollin’ Fast and Steady The Sparkles, aka Jeff and Ava Couey, keep business moving with creative marketing By Robert Sax
OFFICE MANAGER Patty Heath email@example.com
CONTRIBUTORS Jim Goodwin Patty Heath Sean Krainert Pamela Kleibrink Thompson George McAuliffe Robert Sax
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HOTLINE: 818-789-2695 SUBSCRIPTION RATES: One copy of International Bowling Industry is sent free to every bowling center, independently owned pro shop and collegiate bowling center in the U.S., and every military bowling center and pro shop worldwide. Publisher reserves the right to provide free subscriptions to those individuals who meet publication qualifications. Additional subscriptions may be purchased for delivery in the U.S. for $60 per year. Subscriptions for Canada and Mexico are $65 per year, all other foreign subscriptions are $80 per year. All foreign subscriptions should be paid in U.S. funds using International Money Orders. POSTMASTER: Please send new as well as old address to International Bowling Industry, P.O. Box 7350 Overland Park, KS 66207 USA. If possible, please furnish address mailing label. Printed in U.S.A. Copyright 2019, B2B Media, Inc. No part of this magazine may be reprinted without the publisher’s permission.
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22 COVER STORY
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THE WORLD'S ONLY MAGAZINE DEVOTED EXCLUSIVELY TO THE BUSINESS OF BOWLING
EXPANSIONS, OPENINGS & NEW BEGINNINGS
A CAUSE FOR PAUSE?
It is not surprising that with the growing enthusiasm for fowling (football and bowling) and axe throwing, a new bull rider entertainment combo would begin to take root – live bull riding in a bowling center. That is what a business group presented to the Payson, AZ, Community Development board. It was pointed out in the presentation Sean Peterson that audiences to professional bull rider rides Salt River events have increased from around 300,000 in 1995 to more than 3 million in 2018. Even New York City has competitions at Madison Square Garden. The concept for the new center would also incorporate goat roping for the kids. Well, I guess Payson thought better of it. The idea was scrubbed. Bowling can stand on its own. [Note: just too weird not to include.]
BOWLERO BUYS SEATTLE’S THE GARAGE Twenty-four years ago, at a Giant’s baseball game, the seeds of The Garage were planted. Mike Bitondo and Alex Rosenast partnered up and took over a bowling center and a garage and transformed them into The Garage, a funky Seattle pool hall and bowling alley for the over-21 crowd. Now, New York City-based, everexpanding Bowlero has purchased the spot. The idea is to overhaul and update the bowling center with an arcade, bar, and food service, and open it up to a more family-friendly crowd WITHOUT losing the spirit of the place.
PINZ, NEW HARTFORD, NY, IS READY FOR BUSINESS David Breen envisioned a hybrid bowling center, arcade, and restaurant dedicated to fun and entertainment. The result was 20,000+ square feet in Sangertown Square in Hartford, NY – PiNZ. There are 10 bowling lanes, colored blue, with one large television screen stretching across all lanes and neon lighting that changes color and illuminates the lanes. Diamondtufted couches invite guests to eat, drink, and bowl. The arcade, created by Betson Enterprises, is big and fun and opens to an outdoor patio. The restaurant, which opens into the mall, will grab attention from passersby. The family-based company is based out of Milford, MA. This is its fourth PiNZ, shared CEO Breen, to be followed by another location coming soon in New Hampshire.
BOWLERO LANES, IDAHO FALLS, CHANGES HANDS Pat Luras, long-time proprietor of Tough Guy Lanes in Pocatello, ID, and Jason Parris acquired Bowlero Lanes, a 24-lane center in Idaho Falls, ID. Serving as broker was Ken Mischel, president of Mischel & Company and executive director at The Hansell Group.
ALSO HAPPENING A project in Maine that includes bowling is Station Square in Gorham. Jonathan and Cynthia Smith of Great Falls Construction have completed their multi-use Station Square. The five-story building will house 33 apartments, a wine bar, a bowling center, restaurant, and six other to-bedetermined commercial spaces. West Monroe, LA, is waiting for the completion of Surge Entertainment Center. An FEC, it will offer state-of-the-art bowling lanes, big screen TVs, a full-swing golf simulator, a ninja course, climbing walls, laser tag, arcade, a restaurant, and much more. Tallahassee, FL, is home to Hangar 38, a bowling center and restaurant in the style of Dave & Buster’s. There will be eight lanes of bowling, 70 arcade games with virtual reality, plus a restaurant and a 150-seat sports bar. 60-year-old Tiger Bowl in Battle Ground, WA, is getting a make-over. Its ten original wooden lanes have been replaced with modern synthetics. The old scoring machines now also have new flat screen TV counterparts. Owners Robin and Dennis Bailey are looking to continue refurbishing and expanding in the near future. Idle Time Family Center, in Alexander City, AL, is anything but idle. New synthetic lanes, gutters and walkouts are being installed.
ß BITS & PIECES ß ß ß Singapore signs on for two-handed bowling
8 QUBICAAMF’S NEW EDGE STRING PINSPOTTER
Two-handed bowling burst into prominence in 2009 with Jason Belmonte. Currently, four of the top-12 male bowlers also use the two-handed approach: Belmonte, Osku Palermaa, Jesper Svensson, and Anthony Simonsen. To be in tune with the trend, the Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF) has launched a plan aimed at increasing the pool of two-handed bowlers in the country. SBF’s technical director, Sid Allen, feels it may be the future of the sport.
QubicaAMF Worldwide has launched its EDGE String, the next generation of string pinspotter technology. It is easily operated at a minimal cost and supported by the Tech Wizard app, which proactively notifies and guides staff. Neil Pennington, director of performance equipment, said, “In about an hour, your staff will learn to use EDGE String, and they will receive guidance from Tech Wizard, making operation even easier.”
Turnabout’s Fair Play The Big Box syndrome usually goes from a retail box store to a BEC or FEC. In northeast Portland, Target has proposed to open a store where 50-year-old Timber Lanes and later Hollywood Bowl once did business. --------------------------------------------------------------------
Rules Gone Awry Seven-year-old Grayson Powell bowled his best to help his team win the youth bowling tournament in St. John, Newfoundland, Canada. However, after all was said and done, he was disqualified because his pants were the wrong color. The local rules require a contestant to wear black pants. Grayson’s pants were black but faded from wear. Officials let him compete during the contest but informed his parents at the time of awarding the winning gold medal that he was disqualified because his faded pants were not black enough. --------------------------------------------------------------------
Nick Barnett turns Pro again Nick Barnett, an NFL Green Bay Packer linebacker from 2003 to 2010, has stepped into the world of competitive bowling. While he was invited to compete in the 2018 USBC Open Championships, he held back in order to get settled in as a competitive bowler. This year, he made his debut at the South Point Bowling Plaza in the USBC Open Championships. He joins a growing list of former and current professional athletes who compete at the Open Championships, including NFL Hall-of-Famer Terrell Owens and MLB all-star John Burkett.
BUSINESS AT LARGE
8 INTERCARD PARTNERS WITH BPAA Through BPAA’s Smart Buy Program, Intercard, provider of cashless technology for the amusement and attraction industries, will participate in discounts to BPAA member centers. Intercard’s customers in the bowling industry include Cinergy, Main Event, Round 1, and a growing number of independent BECs.
8 XBOWLING TEAMS UP WITH BVL XBowling, creator of a new game designed to help both league bowlers and veterans, has teamed up with BVL. BVL Clean Game Challenge is a simple way for league bowlers across the country to help BVL fund sports equipment, arts, crafts, dance, and pet therapy at VA Medical Centers throughout the U.S. A portion of all entry fees and prizes will go directly to BVL. The USBC endorses the XBowling/BVL partnership and encourages participation.
8 BRUNSWICK FOCUSES ON LEAGUE BOWLING WITH LEAGUEPALS Brunswick is forming a strategic partnership with LeaguePals, the only cloud-based league management platform for league scoring, online payments, and accounting. Bowlers can pay online, either through automated, recurring payments or each week. LeaguePals is available for any scoring system, including Sync, Vector, and Frameworx.
60 AND GOING STRONG!
BIG LEBOWSKI SPIN-OFF GETTING CLOSER Actor John Turturro has rebirthed the Coen Brothers’ character, Jesus Quintana, from The Big Lebowski. In the works for some time, the spin-off has a couple of working titles: Going Places and The Jesus Rolls. The film revolves around three characters, played by Audrey Tautou and Bobby Cannavale, plus Turturro. The plot has previously been described as an irreverent dynamic which evolves into a surprising love story. It is expected that Turturro will debut it later this year at a film festival or early 2020. Who knows? Anything can happen!
OUTRAGEOUS PARIS FASHION One wonders how fashion week in Paris relates to clothes that actually could be worn. But, who really cares. It is outrageous and definitely eye-candy. Designer Thom Browne created a “Secret Garden,” with a fabric fountain and a line of frozen human mannequins clothed in A-line doll costumes, standing on alabaster plinths, sporting bowling balls for shoes. Who could not be blown away?
PEOPLEWATCHING H. Betti Industries, parent company of Betson Enterprises and Imperial, has announced the recent hire of Ken Traina as the H. Betti COO. Traina brings more than 20 years of professional experience in operations management. Most recently, he spent 11 years at Hartz Mountain Corporation. Traina will be Ken Traina responsible for operational excellence across areas of supply chain, sourcing, warehousing, distribution, information technology, and human resources. In addition, he will develop and maintain the strong relationships with key customers and implement relevant revenue growth opportunities. 10
Rancho Bowl in Santa Maria, CA, is celebrating 60 years in business. To commemorate the 1959 lanes which started it all, Chad Vallejo, marketing manager, shared that the center repurposed the original lanes into tables for the restaurant area. A nice way to keep it all in the family! In June, a free event for the community was held with BBQ Santa Maria-style, bowling, arcade specials, children’s carnival games, an obstacle course, a water dunk tank, and bounce house. Congratulations!
THE AMERICAN GIRL BOWLING SET Every little girl has been in love with American Girl dolls. Recently the company launched an all-new play set for its signature 18-inch doll collection: The American Girl Bowling Alley. The set captures the bowling experience with realistic details, lights, sounds, and an authentic wooden bowling lane surface. The lane has 10 motorized pins that reset themselves, along with gutters and adjustable bumpers. To add to the ambiance, there is a rental counter with a pretend monitor and a reversible screen; a card swiper and faux game card; two dollsized American Girl Tshirts that glow in the dark; two pearlescent bowling balls that the dolls can really hold with a strap; and two pairs of American Girl bowling shoes. Oops, almost forgot, there is a snack menu and an array of snack accessories that kids can pretend to heat up with the built-in, pretend microwave.
TENPINS & MORE HOSTS ITS 11TH BOWLATHON ARCA Bowlathon raised $120,000 in its 11th year. The proceeds from this year bring the total raised to $1,081,000! This annual event is held at Tenpins & More in Rio Rancho, NM. It is underwritten by Bob Scanlon and co-hosted by Steve Mackie, Tenpins proprietor. Scanlon generously covers lunch for over 1,000 clients, their families, corporate sponsors and other supporters, as well as bowling and shoe rentals for three 24-lane squads over a four-hour period. The mayor of Rio Rancho, Gregg Hull, started a “Mayors on Strike” opener a few years ago which attracts mayors from all over the state to bowl together. This event adds significant corporate donations, followed by pledged bowlers, a silent action, a raffle that has more than a dozen prizes, and a final session strike race that gets local league bowlers involved.
Bob Scanlon (L) with Tenpins proprietor Steve Mackie.
BVL GETS SUPPORT FROM BOGART’S
FUR BALL HELPS MICHIGAN ANIMALS IN NEED
Bogart’s Entertainment Center in Apple Valley, MN, donated $1 from every paid open bowling game from Monday, July 1 to Friday, July 5 to Bowlers to Veterans Link (BVL). Since 1942, BVL has supported members of the military by providing recreational and therapeutic programs and services.
Aleta Sill and Michelle Mullen, pro bowling champions and co-owners of Country Lanes in Farmington Hills, MI, have raised nearly $600,000 for animals with their nonprofit Michigan Animal Welfare Foundation, housed in their center. Their fourth annual Fur Ball, which they hosted with BLS Financial Partners, was held Aleta Sill this spring with the proceeds going to support three local animal-centered nonprofit groups: the Michigan Animal Adoption Network, in Troy; the Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit, in Dearborn; and Cat Tail Acres, in Shelby Michelle Mullen Township.
COMMUNITY RALLIES AFTER TORNADOES HIT Miami Lanes of West Milton, OH, has become the drop off center for survival items to help hundreds of community members affected by the Memorial Day tornadoes that hit the area. Among the items being collected are pet items, baby food, and cleaning supplies. Katherine Applegate, who works at the center and helped organize the effort, said that locker rooms are being used as storage spaces for canned food and diapers, and the shuffleboard is stocked with Gatorade and bottled water. Almost the entire arcade is filled with donated beverages. “Until everyone is where they need to go, [and has] everything that they need – we’ll be here for them,” Applegate said.
MLB ALL-STAR BOWLING BENEFIT FOR SAY For five years, MLB’s Houston Astros’ outfielder, George Springer, has hosted the All-Star Bowling Benefit to raise money to send economically disadvantaged kids who stutter to SAY summer camp. SAY stands for the Stuttering Association for the Young, and Astro fans know that Springer, the American League slugger, grew up stuttering and is now the SAY national spokesman. The annual event was held at Bowlmor Houston and raised more George Springer, his wife, Charlise, than $250,000. and local kids. Photo credit: Kim Padgett
What is your center doing? Email Patty Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org. 12
w e N A r e A t p Cha
By Jim Goodwin
nyone who has ever bought or sold a business knows how complicated the process can be; even if everything goes smoothly, it takes a good amount of due diligence and perseverance to see it through to the proper conclusion. This story is about the dedication that it takes on both sides to get it done right, and about the satisfaction of knowing that the business remains in good hands for the foreseeable future. The business is Gage Bowl in Topeka, KS, and the story is about how former BPAA president Rex Haney, who operated the center from 1973 until a few months ago, found the ideal new owners to insure that Gage Bowl remains the same vital part of the community that it has been for decades. When Rex and his wife Kathi decided to sell their 40 - lane center, they knew one thing for sure: it had to be the right buyer. In this case, that buyer turned out to be fellow proprietors in the same market, West Ridge Lanes owners Gerry Keslar and Jesse James.
The Process Begins
Rex and Kathi Haney move on to the next phase of their life
Actually, the first and most important decision the Haneys faced was making sure that their children were not interested in taking over the business. â€œOur sons Bernie and Britt like bowling, but they both have great wives, kids, and jobs, and it
became very unlikely they would have any interest in running the center,” said Haney. “Bernie loves the golf business, and he runs one of the most successful First Tee organizations in the country in Manhattan, KS, and Britt is an assistant principle at one of the best school districts in the country. They are both happy and successful and that is all we ever wanted for them.” Selling the center took a serious turn after Haney had a lunch meeting with John Hardman of Jayhawk Bowling Supply in February of 2018. They talked about succession of their respective businesses over a friendly meal, and that led to Jayhawk sales manager Gerry Keslar asking Hardman
if Haney was interested in selling the center. When the answer came back that ‘it sure sounded like it,’ Keslar gave Rex a call and that got the ball rolling. Over the next few months, several meetings were held; at the end of the summer, a deal was struck. Ownership officially changed hands in September. “Like any funding situation, they never go as quickly as you would like them to, but we got the deal done and all has been good,” said Keslar. “I think it went pretty smoothly because we had respect for each other and Rex helped a lot. He is a fixture in Topeka – not just in bowling, but in the city because he has been so active in the Chamber of Commerce, convention bureau, and other things.” “When Gerry and Jesse bought West Ridge Lanes several years ago, we sat down together and talked about how to grow bowling in the whole city, and I think we did that,” said Haney. “We had a good relationship and didn’t really think of each other as competitors, but to grow bowling on both sides of the market.”
The Emotional Factor For the Haneys, letting go of something that had been a major part of their life for 45 years was not easy, but isn’t that why many people build their businesses, to cash in, to spend more time with family and friends, travel, or just to slow down a little? “Of course we have employees, customers, vendors, and others that we won’t get to see as often, but the good news is we will still see them some because I will remain involved in bowling. Some of these relationships go back 30 or 40 years,” said Haney. Because they have been very active in BPAA, Rex and Kathi have many good friends across the country. “When I was BPAA president, I got on the podium one day and told everybody that we have great friends in Topeka, but the friends that probably understand me best are my bowling Gage Center Bowl’s new coproprietor friends,” said owner, Jesse James
Gerry Keslar and wife Chery
improvements are either done or in the works.” Keslar and James are two of the busiest people in bowling. In addition to now owning two centers, Keslar has also represented Jayhawk bowling supply in sales for many years, and he is an assistant coach of the Baker University bowling program. His wife is the head coach. James is very involved in the pro shop business. He operates five In The Zone pro shops in the Kansas market. And if that is not enough, they are doing a lot of the remodeling work themselves. “We don’t like to sit still for very long,” said Keslar. “By doing the work, we get to know our employees in a different way, and we take a little more pride in the finished product.” Of course, there are major items that require contractors, like the complete gutting and re-builds of the restrooms, new countertops, laying new concourse carpet and laminate flooring in the bowlers area, and completely painting the outside of the building, which has not been done since it was built. Other projects underway are: updating and adding to the HVAC system; building a new bar area as an extension of the snack bar;, adding LED lighting inside and outside; and replacing most of the kitchen equipment. “Probably 40% of what we are doing will never be seen by the customers, but it is important stuff,” said Keslar.
Haney. “They know what makes us happy and sad and angry because they live the same way we have. I have always said this is the best group of people we have ever been around, and we love those friends and those close relationships.”
New Ownership – New Enthusiasm and Improvements Keslar and James wasted no time in adding on to the improvements started by Haney a few years ago. Honey spent around $900,000 on a major remodel in 2014, calling it Phase One, but much remained to be done. By November, the new partnership had completely replaced the scoring and office systems with a new Brunswick Vector system; it helped that Keslar was still on the job as the Brunswick rep for Jayhawk. “I guess you could say I sold a system to myself,” quipped Keslar. “That was the first thing we did, and many more IBI
FEATURE be bored to death just sitting around, so I took the job.” “We talked about the job, and worked out the details, said Haney. “Since I was chairman of the legislative committee already, I wanted to add lobbying to the job description and since Topeka is the state capital, it makes sense. We had paid outside lobbyist in the past.” Haney shared that Mayberry was very helpful during the transition. First on his agenda is to improve communications among Kansas bowling proprietors, and he will represent them at national events like Bowl Expo and others. He already attended the winter BPAA Bowling Summit meeting in New Orleans in January.
The Business Side Gage Center Bowl is a traditional bowling center, and it will remain that way under the new owners. It serves around 1,200 league bowlers, and open play business is good especially on weekends. Under the leadership of general manager Noel Taylor, the center now offers corporate and birthday parties, a new Friday Night Sweeper, and many more innovations are on the way. “Rex had a sweeper that was very popular for many years,” said Keslar, “So we brought it back and the results have been good so far. “ Gage Center Bowl is getting back in the tournament business as well. They hosted the Kansas State Tournament recently and plan on bidding for more events when the renovations are complete. “We have already had a lot of positive customer feedback on the improvements,” said Keslar. We are keeping the business that Rex built, and we are seeing an uptick in new customers, so we are happy.”
A New Bowling Job for Rex When word that Rex Haney was selling his beloved bowling center started getting around, bowling-center friends in Kansas started calling him to ask if he would come to their next Kansas BPA meeting. At the meeting, they told him that Kansas BPA executive director Jim Mayberry wanted to step down and asked if he would consider taking the job. Haney thought about it and accepted the new position. So, less than a month after he got out of the bowling business, he was back in it. “My wife Kathi told me that if I wanted to spend money traveling and doing other things, that I needed to work,” laughed Haney. “Plus, she knew I would 20
“It is a new chapter in my life,” said Haney. “I have a new job, Kathi and I get to spend more time together and with the kids and grandkids, and maybe do a little traveling. Life is good. We are very happy.” And bowling is very happy to have Rex Haney remain involved. ❖
Jim Goodwin is the founder and president of the Bowling News Network and a former president and life member of the International Bowling Media Association.
t s a F â€™ Rollin y d a e t and S
ness moving si u b p e e k , y Coue Jeff and Ava a k a s, le k r a p marketing. The S with creative
COVER STORY Editor’s Note: This issue of International Bowling Industry contains our quarterly Beyond Bowling section, where we focus on the new, expanded parts of the bowling business. We thought a lot about what makes our industry great and how collectively the industry has survived. The editorial team felt that Jeff and Ava Couey capture the very essence of not only surviving but thriving in the modern BEC and FEC era. Their creativity and passion enriches their business, their community, and their family. We hope that readers come away with inspiration to keep rollin’ forward.
By Robert Sax
f you’re not on wheels yourself, you will have a hard time keeping up with Jeff Couey, aka Mr. Sparkles. A former speed skating champion, a long-time rink operator and the current president of the Roller Skating Association, Couey has spent most of his life in roller skating. He still loves skating and the business, and he and his wife Ava, aka Mrs. Sparkles, are keeping roller skating relevant and fun for a new generation at their Sparkles Family Fun Centers. Jeff grew up in the roller skating business. His parents, Albert and Leita Couey, bought their first roller rink in 1959, just months after Jeff was born. It was in Mableton, GA, and, by the 1980s, the senior Coueys had 13 locations in Georgia and Tennessee. As with so many family-run amusement businesses, Jeff and his older brother Glenn worked alongside their parents. But not everyone chooses to stay in the family business, as the brothers eventually did. Jeff stayed in the business because he loved skating and skaters. “It was the people. Just the love of people and what I do,” says Jeff. “It meant a lot to me, what my mother and father worked so hard on, and I just said, ‘This is me.’ ” In 1981, Jeff bought his first skating center from his father and inherited another in 2001. During that period, Albert Couey began to shed some of his locations to reduce the workload. “It was just really hard to oversee that many
Ava and Jeff Couey promote Operation Resolute IBI
COVER STORY locations,” says Jeff. “I think when my dad passed, we had seven locations, and ended up selling a few [more], and that’s just making life easier.” Couey now has two centers in the Atlanta area, one in Kennesaw and one in Hiram, while brother Glenn and his wife Julie run centers in nearby Smyrna and Gwinnett. Jeff and Ava became Mr. and Mrs. Sparkles in 1991. Ava had grown up skating at one of the Couey’s rinks but didn’t know Jeff or his family. “I started skating in elementary school and [became] a die-hard skater,” says Ava, meeting Jeff much later at an adult skate night at one of his centers. “We started talking, started dating and then we got married on roller skates.”
Shortly after their wedding in 1999, the Coueys went to the annual roller skating industry convention. There they met operators and industry consultants, Jim and Cindy Anderson, who had just added a playground and laser tag to
their FunQuest rink in Lynchburg, VA. That was the “Aha!” moment for the Coueys, who decided they needed to up their game in a similar way. With the help of the Andersons, they renovated their two centers over a three-year period, turning them into FECs by adding kids’ playgrounds, two-story laser tag, and bigger arcades by 2007. “Now we encompass all ages versus where it may have just been more teendriven before when it was just skating,” says Jeff. “We have a toddler area in our playground and it goes up to adult skate and games.” The changes made Sparkles Family Centers more competitive with other local attractions and boosted revenues. It also distinguished them from other roller skating rinks that didn’t offer as rich a mix of attractions. Even today, most roller rinks are still skating only, says Jeff. “The small cities are going to stay skating rinks probably, but it’s growing in more 24
COVER STORY others come to socialize, drink, and watch the skaters. The Coueys’ success is also due to a knack for local marketing, which has included cable TV ads and screen spots in movie theatres. Jeff’s best-known marketing ploy is undoubtedly the Skate Car, a giant fiberglass roller skate on a Volkswagen bus chassis that his father bought in 1975 from a custom car maker in Daytona, FL. As a teenager Jeff began driving it around town to promote their rinks and he continues to drive it today in local parades and other events. He recently showed it off to the kids at a Career Day on Wheels at the local primary school, where the skate car stood out among the firetrucks, police vehicles, and cement trucks. When not on the road, the skate car is parked in front of the Sparkles Family Fun Center in Hiram, GA. of the bigger cities,” he says, estimating that about 20% of roller skating rinks have evolved into FECs. Corporate events and other private parties are a significant part of their business, especially since they began serving beer and wine in 2011. Jeff says their Sip and Skate events, which feature lots of high-top tables where skaters can stop for a drink, are very popular. Ava says these events draw a mix of people: some people are there primarily for skating who might have one drink;
Driving the Industry A dedicated advocate for roller skating, Jeff was re-elected in 2018 as president of the Roller Skating Association, the industry’s trade group. He’s been busy with the industry on an upswing; an estimated 32 million people participate in skating. The RSA membership pulls in estimated annual gross revenues of more continued on page 30...
COVER STORY ...continued from page 26
than $200 million, according to the group. When he’s not travelling the country to keep in touch with association members, Jeff is occupied with making sure the RSA offers more benefits for them. “Jeff Couey has been one of our most aggressive presidents,” says Jim McMahon, executive director of the RSA. “With his ‘all skate forward’ attitude [Jeff] is always bringing new and innovative ideas forward to help our membership.” Under Jeff’s presidency, the RSA has developed business relationships with such vendors as ICEE, FetchRev, and ADP. He instituted two useful programs
for proprietors: My Skate Repair and Kids Skate Free. Recently Jeff helped make a long-overdue deal with ASCAP, the music rights organization, of which he is particularly proud. Anderson also has praise for Jeff and what he has done for roller skating. “He’s brought a lot to the industry and his passion has been a big plus,” he says. “Jeff is on his game and has been able to bring it to the RSA.” What’s in the future for Mr. and Mrs. Sparkles? They own a third rink that’s currently out of operation and have considered re-opening it; they have run three locations simultaneously before. “[Maybe] after Jeff is not RSA president anymore,” says Ava. “That’s a big commitment.” Someday they might also write a book of all the great roller skating stories they have heard during their travels. “Jeff is good at conversing with everyone,” says Ava, “and once he talks about owning skating rinks then they go right into, ‘Oh, I’ve got to tell you about this,’ and share a story about a birthday at a rink or getting their first kiss there.” “You don’t ever meet anyone who doesn’t have a story to tell you about skating,” says Jeff. “We touch the childhood memory.” ❖
In 1975, Jeff and his father, Albert Couey, traveled to Daytona, FL, to purchase their roller skate car. The creator, Mr. Strickland, made just nine cars; they were a way to combine his two passions of roller skating and building cars. The Coueys bought two cars, kept one for themselves and sold the other to a friend in the skating industry. The car is built on the chassis of a VW bus and runs off of a VW engine – with no lack of power due to the lightweight fiberglass body. Originally fitted out as a high-top roller skate, Jeff has since removed the detachable high-top to keep up with the low-top style of roller skates today. Jeff likes to share one skate car story in particular: “I was 17, and me and some friends would meet up in the parking lot of Hawthorn Plaza and hang out in the evenings. One night, we were out there messing around and I decided to show off just what my skate car could do. I was racing the engine and did a little ‘cat walk’ – where you pop the clutch and the front wheels raise off of the ground. Sure enough, a cop pulled me over right then and there. I got four tickets – excessive speed, reckless driving, lifting the wheels off of the ground, and one more. I remember the cop saying, ‘Jeff, your Daddy isn’t going to be pleased with this one.’ He was right.”
Robert Sax is a writer and PR consultant in Los Angeles. He grew up in Toronto, Canada, the home of five-pin bowling.
According to George t’s been a busy summer! In earlier years we got something of a break after we did our post-Bowl Expo follow up — not anymore! As bowling centers have morphed into BECs, summer can be busy. On the development side, new businesses continue to grow, and more creative bowling models are evolving. You can see that in this month’s IBI and Beyond Bowling in particular. A common theme in our stories this month is that old can become new again. Our Beyond Bowling feature story profiles Kevin and Erin Bosman. They have repurposed the 90year-old Cherry Lanes Bowling Alley and Bar into the Cherry Lanes Arcade Bar. As our writer Pamela Kleibrink Thompson tells us, the emphasis is on arcade. Kevin leveraged his passion for pinball as the centerpiece of the arcade, with twelve classic pins in the lead. A great menu in both the restaurant and bar operations compliment that arcade, which also feature classic games and some old entertainment standbys like pool tables. Refurbished maple surface lanes round out the mix. I think you’ll enjoy my interview with Anthony Taormina, the owner-operator of the 60-year-old Facenda-Whitaker Lanes in East Norriton, PA, a Philadelphia suburb. He is in the process of making the old new again as he does a major modernization
to his business, an institution in the community. Transformation and reinvestment to maintain relevance is important, but I was struck by the answers both the Bosmans and Anthony Taormina gave to the question, “What are some keys to your success?” Both put customer service at the top. In community based BECs, there are only so many people residing in a given market. We need those residents back numerous times to be successful. The marketing guru Bernadette Jiwa (thestoryoftelling.com) put it well in a recent blogpost: “Successful businesses are built on earning the second interaction, and the one after that.” A great theme and fun attractions will do that, but, as the operators in these pages have told us, we need to invest in customer service as well! Enjoy! ❖
George McAuliffe Principal, Pinnacle Entertainment Group
BOWL EXPO 2019
Sparking Innovation With the ‘focus on success’ at Bowl Expo, attendees and exhibitors alike were inspired By Sean Krainert
owl Expo 2019 brought the world of bowling and family entertainment centers one step closer to a future brimming with technology and fueled by passion. A community, anchored in comradery and a love for the sport of bowling, has grown year after year, bringing new ideas to the table. Bowl Expo 2019 took place in Las Vegas on June 21-26 with 2,500 attendees who eagerly shook hands with over 200 exhibitors.
visual, tactile, and overall sensory-driven entertainment experience within the venue”
– FetchRev CEO Brandon Willey
THE MEETING PLACES
In a world where human beings tend to be separated from one another by digital screens, tradeshows possess a transformative power that break down those barriers and allow relationships and ideas to become interactive. Bowl Expo 2019 catered to both long-time members of the industry as well as emerging businesses that were eager to shake hands with every person in the hall, gathering a diverse spectrum of talent and experience in an exhilarating sensory experience. The five day event, hosted at the Las Vegas Paris Hotel and the Las Vegas Convention Center, housed the annual BPAA committee meetings, motivation sessions led by industry leaders and experts, and a number of networking activities that facilitated exciting conversations, sparking new ideas for the industry.
“When it comes to innovation, Bowl Expo once again showcased a number of new, original, and creative solutions for BECs and FECs. It is encouraging to see the industry continue to evolve and innovate with a focus on making it easier and more convenient to engage, convert, and book with the center online before coming in and Brandon Willey, CEO of FetchRev, soon to be then enhancing a consumer’s Hownd 34
FetchRev was one of the many businesses at Bowl Expo to leverage the environment to make announcements about pioneering products or services. The automated marketing platform company announced that they would be rebranding later in the year as Hownd™ which would include new features that benefit consumers, merchants, and partners.
NEW, BOLD AND FORWARDTHINKING
A number of new faces were spread out across the expo hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Among them were new companies entering already-thriving spaces: Boxblaster, a Miami-based start-up company that builds and operates turnkey virtual reality entertainment; Cutting Edge steps up to the throwing block with a start-to-finish axe-throwing package that helps FECs bring the popular activity to life quickly; and Escapology, a well-known and trusted name in the world of interactive entertainment, welcomed attendees to take a VIP tour of their Las Vegasbased escape rooms.
BOWL EXPO 2019 “With the explosion in popularity the sector has undergone in recent years, the escape game industry is a very exciting business venture for FECs and BECs. Escapology is a high-adrenalin experience where players are immersed into a real-life escape adventure. It not only allows a diversification in the offering that the establishments give, but allows the establishment to attract different demographics in the surrounding areas.”
– Escapology director of franchising, Lloyd Notley
Apple Industries introduced their new Marvel Photo Booth. Marvel has been an archetype for a trend-turnedmainstream, giving this product a head start on becoming a staple in FEC attractions. Another fresh name to Bowl Expo was Chive TV, with its new programming product displayed throughout Bowl
Expo, it grabbed attention. Their parentcompany, Atmosphere, has been a longtime go-to for curated, ambient TV programming for a spectrum of business sectors.
New businesses weren’t the only ones to bring amazing new ideas to the world of bowling at this year’s expo. QubicaAMF Worldwide announced the launch of the new EDGE String pinspotter and Tech Wizard app.
BOWL EXPO 2019 “The EDGE String is the next generation of string pinspotter technology, packaging revolutionary electromechanical design and intelligent software into a pinspotter that makes it possible for any center to deliver the fun of bowling. In about an hour your staff will learn to use EDGE String and they will receive guidance from Tech Wizard, making operation even easier.”
– QubicaAMF Worldwide
Another well-known staple in the bowling industry, Kegel, introduced Terrain lane conditioner. This new product is the first variable-viscosity lane conditioner scientifically designed to adapt to a bowler’s playing style. There were also a number of off-the-lane technologies geared toward the bowling-forentertainment sector: newcomer AlleyTrak, an online reservation system that allows customers to easily make a reservation online, at any time, and at any location. AlleyTrak also provides in-center lane management tools for streamlining lane assignments and lane management.
“We’re a fairly young company, and this was our first year attending Bowl Expo, and my wife and I were completely blown away by the event. We really hope to have an impact on the bowling industry by helping centers present themselves as a modern company that makes great Chris Behling use of technology to bring 38
convenience to both them and their customers.”
– AlleyTrak owner and digital director, Christopher J. Behling
THE FUTURE BROUGHT TO LIFE
There were a number of companies selling LED lighting. While the technology itself has been out for a while, Bowl Expo gave these companies the platform to show how they have utilized the technology to create unparalleled, interactive experiences, each with a unique approach: DFX Sound and Vision presented their LED masking unit; and ZOT ColorSplash displayed their vibrant new LED lighting. Brunswick lit up the trade show floor and introduced SPARK™, a new interactive lane projection. Spark™ is the industry’s first immersive, interactive scoring experience. Spark™ surrounds the bowler in a mesmerizing, one-of-a-kind experience as it delivers the latest technology and entertainment trends to your lanes.
There is something to be said about not only what a sensory environment can achieve, but how face-to-face, hand-to-hand, and eye-to-eye interaction can generate an entirely new spark of innovation. Bowl Expo 2019 did just that and made waves across the industry, bubbling up ideas that will no doubt be making their appearance at Bowl Expo 2020 in Denver, CO, July 2-6. ❖
Sean Krainert is a freelance copywriter living in the San Francisco Bay Area specializing in real estate, hospitality, and mental health writing. He is also an alumni of the Wichita State Shocker bowling program.
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Pinball Wizard of Wisconsin The Bosmans revamp a classic alley in Sturgeon Bay. By Pamela Kleibrink Thompson
turgeon Bay, WI, is home to a maritime industry and museum, which is no surprise since it is situated on a peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan. But Sturgeon Bay is also home to a 90-year- old bowling establishment – Cherry Lanes Bowling Alley and Bar. This community icon has been totally refurbished and given new life by Kevin and Erin
Bosman. It reopened early this year as Cherry Lanes Arcade Bar, with an emphasis on arcade, as this is a place to spotlight the pinball collection Kevin has curated over the last 10 years. “We have 12 pinball machines in our house collection, including two vintage machines from the 40s and 50s: Fashion Show and Bank Shot,” Kevin shares. “Some of my favorites are Transformers, Hook, Tales from the Crypt, and Jurassic Park. We have 15-20 classic arcade cabinet machines The Bosmans with their daughter on the too: Frogger, Zaxxon, Tron, new lanes Galaga, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Joust, to name some of our favorites. They are rotated in and out of the arcade area as they are serviced. Vintage electronics can be finicky!” Kevin professes to have no favorite, he loves the whole collection.
wooden bar top out front features maple from Algoma Lumber. Customers can pull up a stool and admire the pendant lighting and decorative tiling, while pondering the bar menu, held by flatThe 7,500-square-foot, nearly century-old space seems a fitting environment for Kevin’s pinball collection. And for those who want other recreation, Cherry Lanes offers bowling on four refinished, vintage maple lanes. The Bosmans kept the retro style, including the original ball holders and bowling chairs. Scoring is manual, and the lanes are available for recreational bowling only, as they are not up to league specifications. Other game options at Cherry Lanes include two dart boards, two pool tables, air hockey, and a foosball table. Cherry Lanes serves up fun and “delicious, locally sourced wood-fired pizzas, and we partner with a local butcher for hot dogs, bratwursts, and barbecued pulled pork.” In the next five years the Bosmans plan to “add a kitchen to the bar downstairs, and renovate the 4,000-square-foot ballroom upstairs.” The rectangular-shaped
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bottomed bowling balls crafted by Kevin. Solid high-top bar tables, also designed and built by Kevin, are made of matching maple. Besides draft beers, Baumeister Root Beer and Pilcrow Nitro Cold Brew are also on tap. Embracing the heritage of the space while updating it took a touch of wizardry from the Bosmans, along with dedicated friends and family. The couple decided to minimize contracting and handled most of the remodeling themselves. Erin found original plans by architect Fred D. Crandall which they referenced when planning. Converted into artistic prints, Crandall’s plans can be viewed on the brick outer wall. The building was designed for Anton Paul and opened as The Congress Recreation Parlors on November 15, 1929, as a bowling alley and dance hall. The Bosmans later
Original plans for Cherry Lanes as drafted by architect Fred D. Crandall
discovered the builder was Erin’s great-great-uncle, John Anschutz. Renovating and refurbishing always come with challenges. There were a few surprises along the way, too, including some of the large, sewerrelated ones. The Bosmans had some experience with remodeling, having redone their women’s clothing boutique, Patricia Shoppe, twice. But they admit that the biggest challenge in remodeling and contracting is the man power. “It takes a bit longer to do it yourself,” said Kevin. The renovation of Cherry Lanes Arcade Bar took almost a year. The biggest surprise for the Bosmans was how much work it took to set the bowling machines to work properly. They advise others contemplating a remodel: “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” Kevin, a native of Sturgeon Bay, was employed by yacht builder Palmer Johnson until the company closed in 2015. Besides Cherry Lanes Arcade Bar and Patricia Shoppe, the Bosmans also own three rental cottages and a boat painting business. A Baileys Harbor native, Erin
has some experience with bowling alleys. Her family is tied to the Sister Bay Bowl, another classic bowling center. But the bar will be a new endeavor for the couple, as neither has worked in food and beverage. Erin notes that she has always worked in retail or the front desk, but they have a lot of friends to help them learn the bar business. The Bosmans acknowledge that great customer service, the novelty-factor of the vintage arcade and the re-vamped food and beverage offerings are some of the keys to their success. They found that some of their favorite aspects of the bowling entertainment business were the variety of fun options and reaching different age demographics; Cherry Lanes Arcade Bar appeals to people of all ages. “We see a natural change between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., when families and teens leave and the nightlife crowd arrives,” notes Kevin. And the crowds are finding this new fun spot in the heart of America. “We advertise on local radio and print,” says Erin. “Our online presence is strong on different social media and business
platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Google Business.” Kevin’s collection of vintage pinball and arcade machines remains a favorite of patrons. Kevin invites all to test their skills on the flippers of the pinball machines that flash enticingly. As a member of the Titletown Pinball League, Kevin is willing to disperse helpful tips and tricks and share his wealth of pinball knowledge. Kevin’s long-held dream of having an arcade where the community can pursue vintage fun in a variety of forms has many singing the praises of the pinball wizard. ❖
Pamela Kleibrink Thompson lives in Idaho. In addition to writing, she is a career coach and scenario role player for peace officer training. Pamela worked as a production manager on the Emmy Award-winning animated series The Simpsons, where she bowled regularly with members of the crew. She speaks on career issues at conferences all over the world. You can reach Pamela at PamRecruit@q.com.
The Transformer of Bowling Anthony Taormina believes in staying relevant in order to thrive. That’s been true for 60 years.
By George McAuliffe Anthony Taormina is the president and managing partner of FacendaWhitaker Lanes, currently transforming into Our Town Alley and the 2912 Eatery and Bar. He is also president of the Bowling Proprietors Association of Pennsylvania and sits on the national BPAA board.
1. Tell us about your company, its origins and history. We are 60 years old this year. We opened in1959 as a 28-lane league house. 60 years later, we are still the same owners, the 2nd and 3rd generation of the same families. My dad built the first 20-lane center, sold that, and moved the business to the current site. The business grew quickly to 50 lanes when Dad got word that a competitor was coming to the neighborhood. He changed the original plan for 28 lanes and went to 50. It worked, and he kept the market for himself. The name came from two Philadelphia sports celebrities with a national following: John Facenda, the voice of NFL Films; and Jack Whitaker, the voice of ABC Sports. 2. You’re in the process of changing that name and transforming your center. What led you there? Today we know how lifestyles have changed. We’re no longer in such a regimented society. With computers and the internet, the clock is no longer the driving force. With mom working, the idea of a dad’s night out with the boys doesn’t sell too well at home. Plus, families want to do things together. As a result — no secret! — leagues have declined while open, casual bowling thrives. After studying this over the past few years, we are removing ten lanes, transforming six private lanes into our Executive Session VIP area, removing eight lanes at the other end [of the building] to add laser tag, and we are doubling the size of our existing arcade, from 25 games to 45, and adding a redemption store. 3. Wow! Pretty impressive! Thanks! And that’s just part of it. We’re doing a major modernization throughout, with all new lane surfaces, gutters, capping, masking, and scoring, as well as all-new furniture packages. In phase two, we’ll add QubicaAMF’s HyperBowling on six lanes and completely update our
Steppy’s Restaurant and Bar into the 2911 Eatery and Bar. We’re changing the whole configuration of the restaurant and expanding our outdoor seating. 4. How did you get into the business? At about 5, I joined our Bantam Peewee bowling program. I didn’t have to pay in cash, but my father had me picking up paper for a few hours. After that, I did a little of everything through high school. I went off to college. When my father passed away, I came IBI
INTERESTING INTERVIEW home to help manage the businesses. We had a great general manager at Facenda-Whitaker [while] I ran the trucking company we owned. In 1984, our general manager retired from the Lanes, and I moved over and have been running the business ever since.
5. What is your vision of a BEC? How do you define it? In our case, it’s more than a renovation: it’s a transformation of the business and a bet on staying relevant. I look at it like the kids toy Transformers. Transformers are a race car one minute, and a monster the next! That’s what a BEC is, but with more variations. Leagues are the ‘racecar’ Monday to Thursday. Come Friday, we transform into the ‘monster’ for casual bowlers, arcade and laser tag players, and families in the restaurant. Plus, we’ve got a few more moves in that we appeal to the late-night bar crowd, corporate groups, and private parties. When bowling is the main attraction, you are a BEC; when bowling is just a smaller, secondary part [of your business], you are an FEC.
6. How important is food and beverage to your business? It’s huge! For the last ten years, we’ve been a full-force dining establishment. The days of nachos and cheese are over — those days are gone! We’ve been serving prime rib, steak, and short ribs well-presented for years. We’ll be taking the food and beverage up a big notch as we rebrand and invest in the atmosphere.
7. It’s not easy to be successful, in any business, for 60 years. What are your top three reasons for success? That’s simple. We apply three principles to everything we do: cleanliness, customer service, and equality.
8. I get the first two. Expand on how equality factors into your success equation. Equality means to treat every league bowler the same, whether they are a high average bowler in a scratch league, a junior league, a senior league. No one is more important because of their average, or for any other reason. Nobody walks out of our building with a product; they spend their money and decide to come back, [based] on an experience. We have to deliver a consistently great experience to all. Every customer is entitled to it equally. 46
9. How do you handle the adult versus families customer segments? Was that an issue as you planned for the transformation? We gave it a tremendous amount of thought and discussion. We went so far as moving the service desk and offices to be in the right position. We created a family bistro seating section so families can have a comfortable meal without exposure to alcohol. Steppy’s, our current bar/restaurant is known to some as a bowling alley bar. The new identity at 2912 Eatery & Bar is as a stand-alone eatery, so [everyone] can come for what they want. We tried to create an atmosphere in our revenue centers where customer types can stand alone or integrate with each other.
10. Any final words of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers? If you’re thinking about a major modernization such as this, take your time, know your market, take a microscope to optimize your building. Always put a 15% contingency into your plan; every time you open up a wall, there’s an issue. If you’d like to avoid some of the inevitable mistakes and have a model that works, we are franchising the Our Town Alley model, so give me a call. Lastly, I’d say join BPAA. I can’t tell you how much we saved through the Smart Buy program. Huge savings on everything from TV monitors to huge HVAC units. The training courses are great as we staff up for reopening. ❖
Thanks for your time and for sharing your experience, Anthony.
George McAuliffe has operated family entertainment centers from 2,000 to 150,000 square feet as a corporate executive and entrepreneur. As a consultant he has helped hundreds of clients add or improve redemption game rooms and FEC attractions. He is currently a partner in Pinnacle Entertainment Group (www.grouppinnacle.com) whose clients include Intercard, Rhode Island Novelty, and Shaffer Distributing Company. He writes for RePlay and International Bowling Industry magazines and speaks at many FEC industry conferences.
ADVANCED SCORING & POS SYSTEM
Brunswick has introduced Sync® Invicta™, the next generation of Sync, the industry’s fastest growing scoring and POS system. There are a number of innovative new products specifically designed for each customer segment: open play, groups, and league bowlers. Vision™ User Interface, modeled after leading digital streaming and e-commerce sites, suggests other games the guest may be interested in playing based on past behavior. Vision UI clearly explains game rules and playing time, leading to less staff intervention. Open Lane®, a custom mobile app, makes it easier for customers to connect with their favorite family entertainment center. Users can sign on to waitlists for bowling, restaurants or other attractions, track and share scoring achievements, earn reward points based on spend and activity, and access exclusive specials and coupons. Rival Rumble™, a team competition, is designed to encourage participation and engagement across all skill levels. Rival Rumble uses high-resolution, engaging content to allow lanes of bowlers to compete against each other. For more information: Brunswickbowling.com.
NEW FUN & GAMES
Betson Enterprises, distributor of amusement equipment, parts, and services, introduced its latest fun and games at 2019 International Bowl Expo. The highlights were the latest from Raw Thrills such as Nerf Arcade and Halo: Fireteam Raven 2-Player, along with other favorites: Space Invaders Frenzy, Injustice Arcade, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Bob Boals, executive vice president of Betson, said, “Each year, in our booths, we show the top performing games that we strongly support, and [we] know our customers will be happy with the increase in foot traffic and revenue.”
STRING PINSETTER TECHNOLOGY
QubicaAMF Worldwide has announced the launch of the EDGE String, the amazingly simple way to offer bowling. The EDGE String is the next generation of string pinspotter technology, packaging revolutionary electromechanical design and intelligent software into a pinspotter that makes it possible for any center to deliver the fun of bowling at a very low operating cost. Its simple and robust design means any member of your staff can operate it. Your guests will return over and over to enjoy authentic bowling fun. To learn more about EDGE String and the amazingly simple way to offer bowling, visit www.qubicaamf.com/edgestring.
Steltronic has released the newest version of its on-line booking reservations for bowling using Focus automatic scoring. Booking for birthday/corporate parties or individual lanes in advance from a mobile device, tablet, or any computer is easier now and improved. With the on-line booking system fully integrated with Focus, leagues and prior books will not be in conflict with any new on-line bookings. Customers pay in advance with a credit card, and the reservation is available at the front desk within 30 seconds of the credit card approval. Steltronic—your bowling center management specialists. For more info: (800) 942-5939 or email@example.com.
LASER TAG CONFERENCE
LASERTRON is the only arena designer offering a turnkey, 100% LED interactive and programmable arena with an integrated game system. To visit and experience LASERTRON’s LED Interactive Arena in person, sign up for the next conference which is scheduled for September 17 and 18. The conference is held in Rochester, NY, at LASERTRON’s Entertainment Center. For questions or to reserve a spot at the conference, call Ann at (305) 257-3930 or Greg at (716) 748-6430 or visit www.laser-tron.com. Don’t wait, be the first in your market to have one!
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It’s Charlie Brown Time!
Summer – Comradery – Bowling
harlie Brown, our quintessential average person, and his pals love to bowl. Competition runs rampant, and no one feels it more than Charlie, who never gives up but rarely wins. Franklin does his best “go get ‘em, rah! rah!” but... as Franklin says, he’s the Charlie Browniest! He speaks to all of us. ❖ - Patty Heath