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VOL 26.8



The Fantastic Jugglers

Destined to Be President

Maybe the busier we are, the more productive we are.

With bowling in his DNA, BPAA’s president Randy Thompson is a natural.

By Ben Jones and Kay Anderson


By Jim Goodwin


• Bowling moves into more big boxes. • QubicaAMF introduces HyperBowling. • Ventola has a U.S. distributor. • ZOT promotes Ray Walker Jr. • IAAPA appoints a new VP of North American operations.

BEYOND BOWLING 38 Bowl Expo Recap 42 Customers with the Win!

48 Interesting Interview 51 Showcase

By Patty Heath


14 PROFILE The Lone Star of Texas Karen Miller is the multifaceted, energetic Texas Bowling Centers Association executive director where her talents — and heart — are as legendary as the state itself.

Chris Keller 24

By Joan Taylor

By Marci Williams

54 REMEMBER WHEN Charlie Brown & Friends


A Blanket to the Rescue

Contemporary Design in Ancient Turkey At the Bu Da Joy Club in Izmir, Turkey, contemporary, sleek design is juxtaposed with an ancient landscape. By David Garber



August 2018

Bowler, proprietor, inventor.

By Patty Heath

PUBLISHER & EDITOR Scott Frager frager@bowlingindustry.com Skype: scottfrager

ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER David Garber garber@bowlingindustry.com

OFFICE MANAGER Patty Heath heath@bowlingindustry.com

CONTRIBUTORS Kay Anderson David Garber Jim Goodwin Patty Heath Ben Jones Sean Krainert George McAuliffe Howard McAuliffe Joan Taylor

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Jackie Fisher fisher@bowlingindustry.com

ART DIRECTION & PRODUCTION Designworks www.dzynwrx.com (818) 735-9424

FOUNDER Allen Crown (1933-2002)

P.O. Box 7350 Overland Park, KS 66207 (818) 789-2695(BOWL) Fax (818) 789-2812 info@bowlingindustry.com


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 $50 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, 12655 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, CA 91604 USA. If possible, please furnish address mailing label. Printed in U.S.A. Copyright 2018, B2B Media, Inc. No part of this magazine may be reprinted without the publisher’s permission.


57 Classifieds 54





Maybe the busier we are, the more productive we are. By Ben Jones and Kay Anderson


ur grandfathers always said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” Why are the very people that seem slammed, with no extra time, the likely candidates to chalk something up in the Done column? What is it about being busy that correlates to being reliable? The word busy has taken on new meaning in the past few years and it is now seemingly a word of validation. Busy can be good or bad and is simply the descriptor for the rhythm, flow, and pace of life. Busy has become an expression of feelings and is also a measure of our worth, as defined in terms of how busy we are. Let’s spin the notion for a minute that busy people are more reliable with this possible insight: Reliable people become busy because they can; they are good at successfully juggling multiple tasks because they employ good systems and mechanisms to avoid dropping the balls. They are excellent at prioritizing – knowing exactly where their hand needs to be next – they seem to have an innate ability to know how to order their activities to facilitate timely completion of multiple tasks. A yes from a busy person is a reliable yes since honoring one’s word and hitting deadlines matter. Reliable people also know how to say no, understanding what the outcome may be when too many balls are in the air. The converse may also be true.  When our plate isn’t full it seems easier to procrastinate. However, prior to addressing a large and in-depth project, it helps to get the myriad of small tasks done and out of the way to open the door for more creative work. If we tackle those things that we can easily control (and thereby eliminate mental clutter), we are better equipped to think freely and to engage our ability to imagine solutions. Oddly, being in a busy state makes this decluttering step imperative to pave the way for accomplishing multiple activities. Busy people are busy because they thrive on the end game and receive satisfaction from juggling multiple tasks that lead to accomplishment. They consistently meet deadlines which translates in the eyes and minds of others as being dependable. AND, busy people are able to take advantage of the opportunities and experiences life brings their way as a result of their ability to say yes or no and to measure the risk of not scheduling for the unknown. What kind of busy are you? Should you learn to juggle? ❖

Ben Jones is an industry enthusiast. He shares his perspectives each month through Boomer Blog and invites your feedback. He may be reached at boomerblog2@gmail.com.



August 2018

Kay has spent much of her career providing financing solutions to small business owners to help convert dreams into reality. She has a keen interest in working with colleagues to develop exceptional communication and people skills.

The bowling family lost a special woman. Ann D. Miller, 61, wife of IBI contributor Mark Miller, passed away after a short but valiant battle on May 22, 2018, in Denton, TX. Ann was born January 12, 1957 in Celina, OH, to Ray and Dorothy (Wenning) Broerman. She married Mark Miller on June 11, 1983. Ann is survived by her husband Mark, her daughter Kelly, and a large and loving family.

Ann worked for USBC in both Wisconsin and Texas for nearly five years in the finance, SMART, and call center areas. She also met many others in the bowling world through Mark’s travels. The Millers were married for nearly 35 years. Ann was always looking to help other people. Her generosity, love, and kindness will be missed. Memorials may be made to the National Kidney Foundation, 30 East 33rd Street, New York, NY, 10016; or to the American Heart Association, 3816 Paysphere Circle, Chicago, IL, 60674.



BIG BOX SYNDROME The closing of retailers such as Sears and Macy’s have left shopping centers with the opportunity to reinvent themselves as well as save business. IBI addressed this phenomenon in its November 2017 issue. Since that time, many malls have turned to entertainment centers for that anchor. Sears recently closed two stores, one in Tucson, AZ, at Park Place Mall, and the other at Brookfield Square in Milwaukee, WI. In each case entertainment venues emerged. In Tucson, Round 1 Bowling and Amusement has leased 44,000 square feet of space in the basement and ground level with bowling lanes, billiards, a large arcade game area, karaoke rooms, darts, ping pong tables and much more. Opening is expected in 2019.

ALSO HAPPENING Schulman Movie Bowl Grille (MBG) has partnered for the second time with Brunswick for a new FEC in Sherman, TX. The new 75,000-square-foot space, slated to open in spring 2019, will feature 20 bowling lanes, eight auditoriums, an interactive gaming arcade, a climbing wall, and Billy’s Grille and Bar, a full-service restaurant. Rock’it Lanes, Panama City Beach, FL, the largest entertainment center on Florida’s panhandle, has just gotten bigger. After a 3-year expansion project, the venue now boasts 55,000 square feet, updated lanes, and has added 95 arcade games and a frozen daiquiri bar. Howard City Lanes in Howard City, MI, has a new owner. Don Veltman and his wife, Kris, have taken the sixlane center and restaurant under their wing. Modernization is definitely on the agenda. Downtown Austin will have its second Punch Bowl Social. February 2019 is the expected opening. The chain has 12 locations across the country, with more to come. In March, a sister venue opened at the Battery in Atlanta, GA.

Milwaukee’s Sears will become WhirlyBall and BistroPlex. WhirlyBall will include eight bowling lanes, a four-lane VIP bowling suite, and a multi-level laser tag arena. BistroPlex will feature in-theater dining with recliner seating and a full-service bar and lounge area. Macy’s space at The Mall at Tuttle Crossing in Columbus, OH, will soon be home to Scene75 Entertainment Center. This is not Scene75’s first trip to the mall. The Dayton-based company transformed a vacant Miami Township K-Mart into a 90,000-square-foot venue in 2016. This new space, to be finished later this year or early 2019, will have electric gokarts, laser tag, arcade games, bumper cars, blacklight minigolf, escape rooms, a video game theater, mini bowling, two 4-D theaters, and a bouncing inflatable arena.

A PRO LEASE ON LIFE FOR AN OLD CENTER Jeff and John Lizzi, PBA bowlers, purchased Harbor Lanes, Clinton, OH, in 2015, with plans to make it a bowling and social hot spot. Star Lanes at the Harbor became their new center. They now have A trifecta of professionalism with brought on a third pro Jeff and John Lizzi, along with bowler, Tim Stencil, who Tim Stencil. has operated centers all over the world, to help them achieve their goal. “We have about 100 years of bowling alley experience between the three of us,” said John Lizzi. “Tim has done it for bowling alleys on military installations for 23 years. He knows how to make things click.” Well, who better than professional bowlers.

TO MODERNIZE OR NOT TO MODERNIZE? WEST RIDGE FOUND THE ANSWER Noel Taylor, general manager of West Ridge Lanes and Family Fun Center in Topeka, KS, shared that modernizing was the best way to better market the center. The 34,000-square-foot FEC upgraded with Brunswick’s Sync scoring and management system, masking units, and Frameworx™ seating and tabletops. Taylor said that once the changes were in place, customers they hadn’t seen in years were coming in. It wasn’t easy but Brunswick and local distributor Jayhawk Bowling helped them move through the process.



August 2018


ß BITS & PIECES ß ß ß

QubicaAMF introduces HyperBowling at Bowl Expo

QubicaAMF officially launched HyperBowling at Bowl Expo after a sneak peek at IAAPA last November. Its presence created a buzz with crowds in full force throughout the show. The gist: it is an all new bumper system built for everyone and meant to be used as part of the game. Now, every shot counts every time, and any player, no matter their skill level, can play and win. Fully integrated with the BES X Bowler Entertainment System, it includes a set of four new bowling games. The lights on the bumpers create moving targets that players aim to hit or avoid. The goal: to reach the younger generations, to increase their spending, frequency of visits and ultimately center revenue, according to Pat Ciniello, Chairman of the Board of QubicaAMF. ---------------------------------------------------------------

New International Headquarters for IAAPA Ground was officially broken on the new 22,000-square-foot global headquarters for IAAPA in Orlando, FL. Construction is slated to be complete by summer 2019. Per the press release, it will feature “a unique wave pattern on the exterior, representing the constant and dynamic movement of the attractions industry. Inside, the building will have dramatic, aesthetic elements, including three different ceiling heights throughout.” ---------------------------------------------------------------

Switch® International Teams Up with BNAE Switch® International and Bandai Namco Amusement Europe (BNAE) have announced their alliance for the design and development of worldwide, themed family entertainment centers. These projects will include everything from bowling and children’s bowling, including Switch® Mini Series, to

simulators, virtual reality, food and beverage areas, VIP lounges and much more. Arcade games and entertainment will be provided by a number of the leading brands, including Bandai Namco, Raw Thrills, Adrenaline, Andamiro, Embed, Apple, and Triotech. ---------------------------------------------------------------

Lighting Expert Ventola Reveals U.S. Distributor Ventola Projects, a firm specializing in made-to-order LED design and installation, has announced its official U.S. distributor. It will be partnering with Kool Amusements, an arcade, pool table, and bowling lane provider that operates in Las Vegas. Mick Ventola, owner/managing director, stated, “I began working in the entertainment and leisure industry— particularly in the bowling industry—over 20 years ago.” He added, “Having successfully worked with clients from the U.S. to the Middle East has given me vast experience creating lighting effects and installing audio/visual equipment.” ---------------------------------------------------------------

South Point Tournament Bowling Plaza Wins Bid for Three Championship Events The World Bowling executive board has awarded three additional championship events to South Point Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas. The World Singles 2020, the World Youth 2020, and the World Seniors 2021 will all take place at the state-of-the-art sporting facility in Las Vegas. It is a competition facility built for sport and viewing. With 90,000 square feet, it boasts 60 lanes, a 360-seat viewing area, and a 720-unit locker room. Kevin Dornberger, World Bowling CEO, stated, “South Point Hotel and Casino hosted an excellent championship event for World Bowling in 2017, and we are very excited to return to the phenomenal bowling venue in 2019, 2020, and 2021.”

IN REMEMBRANCE NANCY SURPRENANT Nancy Surprenant knew just about everyone, and there wasn’t a person she met that didn’t immediately like her. Back in the day, when wood was king, Nancy and her husband, Ken, served the bowling industry through the National Association of Independent Resurfacers (NAIR) and were entegral to the 10


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bowling industry. For over 30 years, Nancy served as NAIR’s secretary; she was truly the backbone and spirit. For those who knew the Suprenants and would like to reach out, daughter Barbara Nelson can be reached at 1038 190th Street, Waverly, IA 50677 or through her email, barbiesapplecart@aol.com.



WATCH ‘BIG LITTLE LIES’ STRIKES IT BIG! Well, you know what they say, “The cast that bowls together, … .” You couldn’t get more high-powered than the three actresses who took to the lanes to compete, act silly, and have a ton of fun. Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Merle Streep, and Shailene Woodley star in HBO’s Big Little Lies which is filming its second season. If that doesn’t work out, these ladies might possibly join the pro tour.

All-Star Bowling Benefit With the help of the Houston Astros’ George Springer and a few of his friends at the fourth annual George Springer All-Star Bowling Benefit, the Stuttering Association for the Young (SAY) received $250,000 from a 450-strong crowd, doubling the $125,000 raised last year. Taro Alexander, SAY founder and president, said, “This summer alone, SAY will award more than $450,000 in financial assistance for kids to attend summer camp.” Springer’s wife, Charlise, moved the event to Bowlmor Houston to accommodate the number of people, following the World Series Championship, which the Astros won. Springer, along with fellow Astros Lance McCullers, Brad Peacock, Joe Smith, and Chris Devenski greeted the fans and played arcade games and did some bowling.

Hall of Famer Jeri Edwards coaches during this year’s 3-day, annual Bowling Boot Camp held at Rockaway Lanes in Rockaway, NJ. The camp helps bowlers work on elements of their game with professional coaches. 12


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PEOPLEWATCHING Ray Walker Jr. has been promoted to vice president of operations for ZOT, according to an announcement by PJ Rosendahl, ZOT’s president/owner. Walker joined the company in 1988 as an electronics technician. In 2000, he became electronics supervisor and since has managed that department, plus managing the shipping and receiving. He also has become an integral part of the ongoing R&D program. “He has all the qualities necessary to serve as my right-hand man in the dayto-day operations,” Rosendahl Ray Walker Jr. shared. International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) announced that John Hallenbeck has joined the association’s team as vice president of North American operations. He will lead the IAAPA North American office in Orlando, FL, and oversee membership engagement, growth, and service of the largest region, including more than 3,500 members. Hallenbeck’s background includes Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, Dubai Parks and Resorts, Universal Studios Singapore, and Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore. In addition, he has served as chair of the IAAPA Education SubJohn Hallenbeck Committee for the Asia Pacific region and has been a member of IAAPA’s Asia Pacific Regional Advisory Committee. Performance Entertainment, LLC (PE), a recreation management company, announced that Don MacBrayne, a founding partner, has been named president and COO, effective immediately. He has been serving as COO since 2013. PE operates two FECs in Colorado and is preparing to open a third location later this year under the brand The Summit. Prior to PE, MacBrayne had over 35 years of management experience with Brunswick’s retail bowling division, retiring in 2013 as vice president of operations and overseeing the Brunswick Zone XL brand. Don MacBrayne




f the dictionary were able to put a picture next to the word Texas, I’m sure you would find a picture of Karen Miller, executive director of the Texas Bowling Centers Association (TBCA), a position she has held since 1991. Karen was born in Florida but moved to Texas at a young age. She considers herself a true Texan. She attended the University of Houston and enjoys cheering for all of her favorite teams: the Houston Astros, the Texas Rangers, the Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys. Her two brothers have also remained in Texas. Right after college, she worked in Austin in her brother’s jewelry store. In 1984, she was hired by the TBCA as the administrative assistant under executive director Jack Martin who introduced her to her husband, Ron. Karen became the executive director in 1991 when Jack passed away from cancer. Ron, a bowler, is the CPA and vice president of Family Sports Inc. They married in 1993 and Karen began traveling to the national conventions with him. When Karen started working for the TBCA, she joined a ladies league and has met some of her best friends through bowling. Her enthusiasm for the sport spills out when she talks about watching the youth bowlers grow up through the Texas Grand Prix Scholarship Program. Wes Malott, Nathan Bohr, and Anthony Simonsen are all products of the program. The program was started in 1983 and has awarded over $1 million dollars in scholarships to over 230 schools. Pride also exudes from her voice when talking about the success of the high school bowling club (in its 18th year!), and she gives kudos to the Texas board members and volunteers that assist her; she is the only TBCA employee. While, as much as enthusiasm and pride were obvious when



August 2018

Karen Miller is the multifaceted, energetic Texas Bowling Centers Association executive director where her talents — and heart — are as legendary as the state itself.

Karen Miller on top of the world and on top of her game.

talking about her job, greater enthusiasm and immense pride were evident when Karen talks about her husband, their son, Ryan (Karen noted that she bowled her highest game ever, 268, when pregnant!), and their four-legged children. She and Ron, whom she proudly describes as her rock, worked in the same office building until she moved her office into their home last year. They’ve shared many activities through the years, between their son’s activities and their mutual love of dogs, but one of their most exciting shared memories came last October 2017

PROFILE when they attended Game 7 of the American League Championship Series where their beloved Astros beat the Yankees to earn their berth in the World Series. Karen and Ron’s son Ryan was an active junior bowler and won the city tournament one year. He moved onto baseball and then played football in high school. Both parents were very involved as Ron coached Ryan’s baseball team and Karen was the team mom. Ryan was captain of his high school football team and, during his senior year, was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame as a scholar-athlete. In addition to all of the sporting activities, Ryan was a boy scout and worked his way to the highest honor, Eagle Scout. Once again, it was a family effort as Ron served as Cubmaster to the Tiger Cubs in elementary school and later became the Scoutmaster for the troop while Karen was the committee chair for the boy scouts for six years. Ryan currently attends Baylor University where he is majoring in accounting and entrepreneurship. Before Ryan was born, Ron and Karen were involved with the Travis County Kennel club where they helped spread the word about puppy mills, helped educate people on breeding and finding the best homes for dogs. For four years, they owned and showed beagles and traveled on

Ron with one of their show beagles.

weekends to attend dog shows in different cities, culminating in six champions and six international champion titles. At one time, the couple fostered 10 beagles, but Karen successfully placed the dogs in good homes. They currently have two pets – 13-year old Bella and four-year old Oakley – and will be adopting a 13-week old puppy Amelia this summer. Karen loves Texas and her bowling family. She continues to enjoy attending the various bowling meetings and says 16


August 2018

Proud dad Ron with son Ryan.

she’s met many really great bowling proprietors and can’t think of one downside to her job! She’s been honored by the TBCA with the President’s Award for outstanding contributions made to the association and is currently president of the Society of Bowling Center Association Executives. In Karen’s spare time, she has earned her CMP (Certified Meeting Planner) and completed an extensive management school course for association management. She loves to travel and has been to Israel, Egypt, and Ireland. She has worked with Meals on Wheels, and loves to donate Christmas gifts to patients at Austin State Hospital. The desire to be a caretaker seems natural to Karen as her mom was an RN and nursing home administrator. It’s extremely apparent that whatever Karen chooses to do, she does it well, and she’s the epitome of the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” Texas should thank it’s lucky star that Karen Miller is a devoted Texan: so many people have benefited from her positivity in both her personal and professional life. ❖

Ms. Williams worked at Learjet Inc. (now Bombardier Learjet) for 33 years before retiring in 2005 as a corporate tax accountant. She served on the USBC board of directors for nine years, the BPAA board of directors for four years and the BVL board of directors for seven years. Her high game is a 300, and she is a proud supporter of the Wichita State and Newman University bowling programs.


The Twin Skyscrapers in Izmir, Turkey incorporates Switch Bowling at the Bu Da Joyclub.


By David Garber


he Folkart Towers are the most recognizable living and office towers in the Aegean Sea city of Izmir, Turkey. In a city of 4 million, the owners of the twin skyscrapers realized the benefits of including a shopping mall, art gallery, restaurants, cinemas, and, of course, bowling. With the help of Switch, with its headquarters also Izmir, the Bu Da Joy Club offers eight lanes of Switch bowling. Everything is of the highest quality design and equipment: floor to ceiling braided, fibrous cables separate each 20


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bowler’s area, plus super plush sofa seating, and wood veneer ball returns. Bu Da Joy Club screams unique and First Class. There are no scoring pedestals; everything is controlled by

the front desk. There is also a live DJ booth. Bowling is making a resurgence in Turkey, as a popular game for the younger generation, and this center fits right in to the sweet spot. Next time you’re in Izmir, you need to stop by and see the Bu Da Joy Club. Until then, enjoy the photos. ❖

David Garber is a graduate of Wichita State University where he bowled, winning two national championship titles. He is associate publisher of IBI and second vice president of the International Bowling Media Association. 2017 marks his 39th year in the bowling business.



August 2018


Sheri and Randy Thompson.

DESTINED TO BE PRESIDENT With bowling in his DNA, BPAA’s president Randy Thompson is a natural.

By Jim Goodwin


andy Thompson may be the most qualified person ever chosen to be president of the Bowling Proprietors Association of America. He was born into the business and worked in his parents’ center, Plaza Lanes, in Des Moines, IA, while he was still in grade



August 2018

school. After high school and college, he worked for Leo McGee’s Bowlerama Lanes across town. “I knew I wanted to be in the bowling business from the time I was in junior high,” said Randy. “I wanted to go to college and then return to the business. I have always loved the

COVER STORY aspect. My dad put live bands in our bar in the ‘60s, and we still do. That led to other things like volleyball, laser tag, fitness centers, and all the rest.” Randy has attended Brunswick, AMF, and BPAA management schools. In 1993, when he felt like he was ready to be the boss but his mom was not quite ready to retire, he moved to Texas and then to Kansas where he operated centers before returning home in 1999 to buy the center built by his dad in 1957. In 2013, Randy bought 24-lane Premiere Lanes in nearby Pleasant Hills, IA, and after expansion and remodel, relaunched it as Great Escape Family Entertainment Center. Randy and his wife Sheri’s son Brandon Thompson was named general manager and remains there today as their managing partner. In 2017, about the time he was being named president of the organization he worked so hard for during all those years, his beloved Plaza Lanes burned to the ground. Many key employees, including Randy’s sister Melody Gray, who is another partner and was Plaza’s GM, are working at Great Escape until Plaza can be rebuilt. Randy brings all of these experiences to share with his fellow proprietors, and as BPAA president, he hopes to help them make their centers, BPAA, and the industry better than it has ever been before.

SECOND GENERATION LEADERSHIP, LESSONS FROM A VISIONARY FATHER Randy has something in common with outgoing BPAA president Nancy Schenk: he learned most of what he knows about the business at an early age from his parents. “Randy is a great proprietor who has a true passion for our industry,” said Schenk. “While a purist at heart, with a true love for league bowling, he has also embraced the newer FEC model of today’s bowling center.  His experience in both a traditional and FEC center will make him a well-rounded president who can understand all of our member centers. I look forward to the ideas he brings to BPAA over the next two years as the president of our great association.”

DARRELL THOMPSON, THE ICON The patriarch of the family, Darrell, came up in hard times during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl that ravaged American farms and families. At age 12, he and his 11-year old brother were sent to Idaho and Washington to work on farms picking potatoes and apples. Iowa and several other Midwestern states had been devastated by these disasters, and families did desperate things simply to survive. It was a time now hard to imagine. Darrell was an

extremely hard working man who made the most of his limited opportunities during very tough times. With only an 8th grade education, he went from dirt poor to becoming a very respected commercial builder, a community leader, and a wealthy man when very few achieved that status. Darrell and his wife Barbara built 32-lane Plaza Lanes in bowling’s heyday after the introduction of automatic

Randy Thompson ‘greets’ the Bowling Man, the well-known sign that was on the roof of Plaza Lanes.

pinsetters. Instead of just going anywhere to build an ordinary building, he commissioned a demographics and traffic study from Drake University. In those days, it was an unusual and innovative move and not as simple as today, but the result paid off. The study said the Douglas Avenue corridor in Des Moines was the place to be, and Darrell started buying land there, and what he couldn’t buy, he acquired on long term leases. He built a shopping mall, a grocery store, a gas station, all to support the new bowling center at 2701 Douglas. And his center was no ordinary size – 32 lanes in the days when most alleys were in the 6 to 12 lane range. The building itself was also spectacular for the time, with 160 foot long solid maple trusses holding up the roof to provide a column free interior with a wide concourse. “He built it like a bridge,” said Randy. “He did not want any posts, and steel in those days was not made for the stress of that length, so he used his bridge building skills to make it work.” The center became a landmark in Des Moines very quickly with its domed roof and a unique outdoor neon sign showing a bowler rolling a ball along the roofline toward the pins. Locals always smile when they talk about the Plaza Lanes bowler never getting a strike in more than 60 years; he always left a couple of pins standing. In 1980, the Thompson family lost Darrell in a tragic jeep accident at the age of 63. It was a huge loss for the entire family, and for the community and customers he loved so IBI

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COVER STORY dearly. The city of Des Moines put up an official plaque to honor him and thank him for his love and service to the community.

MAKING DAD PROUD When a family suddenly loses a strong leader, it has a lasting effect. For Randy and the rest of the Thompsons, it was motivation to carry on as Darrell would have and to continue his vision and establish his legacy. From 1980 through 1996, Barbara led the family and the business, and she had plenty of support from her family, the community, and Plaza’s loyal customers. With the business running well, Randy and his wife Sheri made a big decision. They decided to leave Iowa for Texas. “It was really hard moving away from our family and it was tough for Randy because he had a vision to become a very successful bowling proprietor,” said Sheri. “He thought he needed more exposure and new ideas on how to build the business.   That was really the best decision we made.  We could never have learned the things we know today had we not taken the chance we did by moving.” The Thompsons spent three years in Texas, and three more in Kansas before returning to Des Moines to buy Plaza. They returned home in 1999 and completed the deal that allowed mom to retire in 2000. In Texas, Randy made a deal with well-known proprietor Phil Kinzer to take over one of his centers. It was sold to Neil Hupfauer in 1996, and later to AMF. “I learned a lot from Phil and Neil and many others in DFW [Dallas/Fort Worth]

Randy prepared the next generation of Thompsons for the bowling biz: Brandon (now age 30) is in the middle: and Jordan (now age 26) is on the right

and Texas,” said Randy. “They are a great group.” The Thompsons then headed for Overland Park, KS, to run AMF College Bowl, and they managed to add enough bowlers for it to compete with Danny Jackson’s IncrediBowl that had just opened in the same market. Randy was well known for his innovative marketing skills and as a trailblazer in trying old and new ideas. “We increased business in Dallas and Kansas City the old fashioned way,” said Randy, “by knocking on doors. We ran merchant programs, and I learned the corporate way to operate with the AMF corporate system of dealing with numbers and analyzing profit and loss statements. It was great experience all around, and I learned a lot during those years, with Sheri by my side every day.”


A successful boxer in high school, Randy never lost a bout. 26


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The day Randy became the official owner of Plaza Lanes in 2000 was one of the proudest days of his life. Finally, it would be his vision and his leadership skills that would make the business work, and he was determined to make it better than ever. He was driven by the memory of his dad; his love and respect for his mom who worked so hard before and after losing her husband; his love for his brothers and sisters; his love for Sheri and their boys Brandon and Jordan; and his love for the community and the many generations of customers who had been so loyal to his family over the years. In the past 18 years of Randy’s leadership, Plaza Lanes thrived and became even more of an iconic Des Moines destination than it was before. In 2003, Randy totally remodeled the lounge and re-branded it Trophy’s Sports Bar & Grill. They installed 30 TV sets before flat screens — the heavy box sets have all been upgraded to flat screens. Randy re-tooled the kitchen and created a whole new menu. And, he created an outdoor bar called Volley’s to support the sand


RANDY’S SAFETY SUGGESTIONS Take photos of every room in the building and the contents In order to rebuild now and in the immediate future, it is necessary to be insured for $200 per square foot. This includes building and contents.  Proprietors and their insurance agents should decide what should be considered building and what should be considered contents. Make sure your insurance agent and carrier know and have documented to you the exact square footage of your property.  If you have more than one address, be sure all are listed on the policy. Always purchase replacement cost as opposed to ACV (Actual Cash Value) if  you plan on  rebuilding after a loss. Understand your policy limits and co-insurance listed on your policy.  Be covered for a minimum of what your policy states.” Larry Linder, CEO of Test Fire Prevention and Maintenance Company, has three more suggestions for proprietors: Have a certified Level II or higher thermographer conduct a thermographic test and inspection of your center’s electrical systems.  This is not something the average electrician is qualified to do and it’s best entrusted to a thermographer who is familiar with the unique risks of a bowling center.  Be OCD about keeping your kitchen clean and have a hood and flew cleaning contractor clean your Ansul system at least twice a year, if not quarterly. Make sure. Be OCD about the care and keeping of clean up rags.  Rags used in the kitchen, the pro-shop, and by the mechanic should be collected in a metal container with an automatically shutting lid which is emptied regularly and clean the rags regularly.  Spontaneous combustion of greasy rags happens far more often than you might suspect.  Do not permit kitchen staff or your mechanic to toss greasy rags into a corner or a closet to be dealt with at a later time. Staff should be positively devout about tossing rags into a non-combustible container with a lid. Randy will stand up and salute reason number three – oily rags left under a stove were ruled the official cause of the Plaza fire. The pilot light got them started.



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volleyball courts that are so popular in the warm months. With strong promotions and sales, Randy had 235 six-person volleyball teams the first season, and it remains strong today. Cross promotions with the volleyball players have resulted in new bowling business. By 2013, things were going so well the Thompsons decided to expand their operation, and they acquired a second center in nearby Pleasant Hills, IA – 24-lane Premiere Lanes. In 2015 they expanded, remodeled, and re-branded the center, calling it Great Escape Entertainment Center. The center has a few leagues, but it leans toward the FEC model for adults. Aside from the leagues, Great Escape also has a very good youth program, with over 200 kids participating on Saturday mornings and a few evenings. Randy’s sister, Melody Gray, runs the program. “Youth bowling has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember,” said Gray, who has been working with kids at Plaza and Great Escape for almost four decades. Her secret? “I believe you must be young at heart yourself, and it is extremely important to keep the kids of all ages engaged and having fun. You have to give them an experience they will always remember.” Buying Great Escape also gave Randy and Sheri’s son Brandon a chance to test his management skills. He was 28 when they made him the managing partner and general manager, and it has gone very well. “What I’ve learned from my parents and grandparents is that things can always be made better,” said Brandon. “With the proper work ethic, mindset, and goals, success can always be achieved and things can always be made better than they ever were before, financially and aesthetically.”

A MAJOR SETBACK AND LESSONS LEARNED The morning of December 18, 2017, will never be forgotten by the Thompson family nor by thousands of people in Des Moines. It was the day that Plaza Lanes burned to the ground. It was an ordinary Monday morning, one week before Christmas, and phones started ringing in the Thompson houses. Randy’s sisters Dawn and Darla went to Melody’s house and then to Randy’s house because no one was answering their phone at 5:00 a.m. They had not turned on their televisions to see the breaking news on all three local channels. Plaza Lanes was on fire. They all dressed hurriedly for the frigid weather and rushed to the scene. Melody recalls, “When I arrived, Randy was standing in the middle of Douglas Avenue, staring at the horrific, all-consuming fire. There were tears streaming down his face, yet he was not crying. The first thing he said to me as we embraced was, ‘What about our employees?’ He knew no one was inside, but he was worried about their jobs the week before Christmas. The second thing he said, to no one in particular, was, ‘Sorry, Dad, this happened on my watch.’” “All I could say was, ‘Oh my God!’” said Sheri. “It was paralyzing.  I had never seen a fire of that magnitude.  All we could do was watch it burn. Honestly, to describe what we felt that day is nothing short of devastation. There really are no words when you are in shock. You

COVER STORY don’t know what to think or what to do because it is so overwhelming. Other family members started arriving and we were all crying and comforting each other.  Employees, friends, and customers were coming up to us and they were all as speechless as we were.  The next couple of days were a blur.  The ATF, fire fighters and first responders and our insurance agents were all there asking questions and interviewing employees.“  In the aftermath, Randy knew immediately that they would rebuild Plaza Lanes, and he remains determined to make it better than before, to share his experience to help fellow proprietors and other business owners prevent such a tragedy, and to be prepared if it does happen. Randy has learned some valuable lessons in the months after the fire.

MOVING FORWARD – BETTER TIMES AHEAD FOR EVERYONE Given the circumstances, some business owners might have turned down or delayed the chance to serve as BPAA president while trying to rebuild a building and business. Not Randy Thompson. According to his family, he has been preparing for this role his whole career. He was a wrestler and a boxer in high school and college, and played a little football as a defensive end and linebacker. Perhaps his competitive nature and drive comes from his boxing skills – he says he had 35 bouts and never got knocked down.

Barbara, young Randy, and Darrell Thompson.

“Randy had the dream of becoming BPAA president at an early age,” said his sister Melody. “I knew he would achieve his goal. He is a very progressive businessman, and his determination and involvement with local, state, and national associations led him to the top.”


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BUILDINGS CAN BE REPLACED – BUT BOWLING IS A PEOPLE BUSINESS By all accounts, the Thompson family are super stars in the bowling business, but their supporting cast is one of the things that make the business hum. At Great Escape, Randy singles out a number of key employees, some of them from Plaza Lanes.   “Clint Papin, our food and beverage manager has been on the job over eight years,” said Randy. “He started at Plaza in Trophy’s Sports Bar & Grill. Brandon, our general manager, Whitney, our marketing and sales manager (and managing partner), work closely with Clint and assist him, due to the  nature of the FEC  business with coordinating events, such as group outings and full facility rentals. “Tom Foster has been with us for over 11 years, and was our night manager at Plaza Lanes up until the fire.  He came to Great Escape  after the fire.   Tom, along with  Romeo Basconcillo, who has been with us for over 5 years (plus some years past at Plaza Lanes), are the key employees during the evening/night shifts and are our go-to guys in the facility.

“Tim Davis is the league development coordinator and outside sales person.  He keeps in contact with league bowlers and encourages new clientele to join one of the organized programs. “Jody Schillinger is the youth director in charge of birthday and after-prom parties, along with promoting child care and other youth outings, organized leagues, and events.  She and Melody Gray work side-by-side promoting and growing youth leagues as well. “Laura Berkley is the assistant sales manager,  working closely with Whitney to promote and sell  group and corporate  outings.   She also handles much of the social media and creates promotional pieces throughout the facility. “Another key employee who deserves the utmost appreciation is Denise Hennick, who has been extremely loyal to our business as a multi-trained staff member. She not only keeps our facility beautiful, but also bartends, serves, and does whatever is asked of her,” said Randy.

“I always knew he would succeed,” said Sheri. “He is so passionate about the bowling industry and wants other proprietors to succeed as well. Although he will be traveling more, I am ok with it.  I know he has goals for his term as president. One in particular is to keep growing the youth membership.  He has already accomplished [so] much in the state of Iowa with high school bowling, so I’m sure he will succeed in getting the younger population more exposed to the sport of bowling.” “Dad always had a special appreciation for past presidents,” said son Jordan. “He never really spoke about it, but I could always tell he looked up to all of those men and women who had come before him. It was always a dream of his to be president one day. “ “I am beyond proud of him,” said other son Brandon. “It’s a true testament to the saying ‘hard work pays off.’ Through all his trials and tribulations, successes and failures, he kept his head up and remembered that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. His goal for years was to be BPAA president because his top of mind has forever been to The iconic Bowling Man sign that sat atop Plaza Lanes make the bowling industry better.” lays in the charred ruins of the building after the fire. 30


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Randy is already on the job, and his enthusiasm is contagious. “This business is all about giving people a good experience,” said Randy. “We have to keep training our staffs, go after more youth business from daycare to college, and improve our social media outreach. We have to convince more centers that youth programs are vital for our future.” “And we must find more and better ways to talk about our scholarship opportunities – no other youth sport can match this effort. It should be a big statement about bowling in America.” “I know we can do it. It just takes hard work and focus, and I think I’m pretty good at that.” ❖

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.



According to George t’s mid to late summer for those of us in the Northeast, and it may be back- to-school season for those of you in the Midwest and South. Normally a slow season for traditional bowling centers, summer — with kids out of school— is a busier time for BECs these days. Positive momentum continues in our industry, with centers continuing to add or upgrade arcades and FEC attractions. Having been on the FEC side for some 38 years, and most of that fighting for the legitimacy of arcades, I still find myself amazed at where we are today. Last week I was watching a cartoon show, Kid Danger, that my 6-year-old grandson chose. The entire episode was set in an arcade and revolved around a competition to win the most redemption tickets to redeem for a ray gun. Just another reminder that arcades are now officially part of American culture, which bodes well for us. Speaking of redemption, this quarterly edition of Beyond Bowling features Sean Krainert’s article on redemption trends. If arcades are mainstream, redemption gets much of the credit for widening the audience, improving the economics, and motivating customers to keep playing. Sean’s article shares some of the




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trends out there and how to best capitalize on them. Although it’s August, it seems like Bowl Expo was just yesterday. Howard McAuliffe reports on highlights from the big show, which was a great success by all reports. Finally, you can read my “Interesting Interview” with Allen Weisberg, CEO of Apple Industries, Inc., the world’s largest photo booth creator. I made my IAAPA flight and hotel reservations today. Just as Bowl Expo benefits from a strong presence of FEC exhibitors and attendees, so IAAPA has grown with companies and folks from the bowling side. We expect that will be the case again this year. It’s a great time to be in the business of fun. Enjoy!

George McAuliffe Principal, Pinnacle Entertainment Group


Steady As She Goes The evolution of bowling into an experience beyond bowling (pardon the pun) is continuing. By Howard McAuliffe


he 2018 Bowl Expo was an exciting week as always. While the industry is changing in many ways, in others, it is still the same at its core. As we reflected on the week, here are a few observations: bowling is as popular as ever;combining bowling with entertainment is widely accepted and essential to both the bowling and FEC industries. While this is all positive, we are seeing some careless spending and operations and caution proprietors to guard against this phenomenon.

Bowling is as Popular as Ever

Bowling alleys were long a community hub. Men’s leagues operated after work, women’s leagues during the day, and kids leagues after school. Families bowled together on weekends. The bowling alley was a community gathering place everywhere from neighborhoods in New York City to some of the smallest towns in America. Many proprietors long for the past, and lament the changes in the industry. However, as I’ve worked with proprietors nearly every day, I’m struck by the fact that



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bowling centers are still a community hub. Yes, the leagues are not as popular as they once were, especially competitive leagues. But bowling centers are a growing attraction for business, social, and family life. Co-workers bowling together in a league are less common, but company events in bowling centers are more popular than ever. Kids leagues are smaller, but kid’s birthday parties are growing in bowling entertainment centers. Open bowling is filled with families — it is something multiple generations can do together, just like playing in an arcade. When a bowling alley is converted to a boutique or bowling entertainment center, customers are given the experiences they desire and the center is still a thriving hub in the community. Many aspects of the business and experience have certainly changed, but, at the core, bowling is still a driver of interaction and community life.

Combining Entertainment with Bowling is Widely Accepted

This year we created and presented the two seminars focused on family entertainment in bowling. Prior to presenting, we polled the audience and found out that about 80% already had modernized or built their center to be a bowling entertainment center. Ten years ago, nearly 100% of the audience would not have had a bowling entertainment center. We were surprised by how many had already converted versus those thinking about converting. The buzz at the show was still about entertainment and the success of it. While entertainment has certainly helped the profit of bowling proprietors, it is interesting to note that it is bowling that has driven much of the growth in the family entertainment center (FEC) business over the last ten years. Companies from the FEC business made up 25% or more of the booths at Bowl Expo, which is proof they realize the bowling industry is key for their sales. In fact, many traditional FECs are adding bowling and finding it greatly helps their business. Bowling provides an indoor, year- round

BOWL EXPO RECAP attraction that appeals to all age groups. Bowling is expanding into new markets and concepts, including restaurants, FECs and even retailers like Bass Pro Shops.

Times are Good. Let’s Not Get Careless

At Bowl Expo, we saw a proprietor, who had never operated an arcade or bowling center, commit $500,000 to a new technology that had not been tested. For someone with a high performing center with tremendous profits, risking this kind of money on a new concept could make sense because this proprietor can afford to have it fail. While this is an extreme example, we’ve been seeing similar impulsive spending by proprietors recently and believe this is dangerous. The boom in bowling entertainment centers has occurred over the last ten years in an environment of relatively low gas prices, limited competition, and a growing economy. Many of the bowling proprietors have not been through a down turn while operating this new model. In addition to some careless spending, we have noticed while reviewing past client’s sales reports, that the further we get from opening, the more likely their reports, ratios, and numbers become out of balance. When the numbers don’t make sense, this nearly always indicates operations that are not operating at peak performance. It is possible in many markets to

operate at 80% of peak and still make good profits. However, as more centers modernize and new centers are built, competition will put pressure on sales. In addition, gas prices tend to increase at times and the overall economy will have down turns. When these factors put pressure on sales, careless capital expenditures and poor or average operations become painful. Overall, the bowling industry is in a great place, we just want to make sure not to be careless about spending and operations. Bowl Expo was a great week to visit with old friends, make new ones, and see where the industry is moving. Bowling and family entertainment, along with food and beverage, have been a great synergy that has benefitted numerous vendors, proprietors, and most importantly customers. We should all be happy we found each other. Let’s all make sure we continue to evolve, while managing risks and our operations so that bowling and family entertainment continue to be at the center of our communities’ social lives. ❖ Howard McAuliffe is vice president of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Pinnacle Entertainment Group has conceived, developed, and operated family entertainment businesses in every size and budget, and integrated in to many other business as both corporate executives and entrepreneurs. He can be reached at howardmc@grouppinnacle.com.


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Customers with the Win! Redemption trends keep up with the changing times.

By Sean Krainert


s we move forward in the entertainment industry and embrace change in order to thrive, technology remains on center stage as part of the package deal. The shift that the FEC business is beginning to see is the difference between loading up on tech-advanced tools and properly utilizing these tools to enhance business practices. Among the many players in the industry, redemption merchandisers are facing this challenge with solid efforts by using technology that benefits both their own bottom line and their customers’ so both can equally reap the benefits.


Trends tell us the direction in which our industry is moving. Whether it’s easy-load game cards, built-in customer data collection, or innovative scoring systems. FECs have the advantage of being on the cutting-edge of technological advances as the center stage of the reemerging experience economy. While proprietors tend to be focusing on the tools that can bring their facilities into the future, the importance of smaller details like the types of redemption merchandise can understandably fall through the cracks. This only brings more light to the fact that in order to be successful, some details need to be outsourced and faithfully put into the hands of reliable partners. “Any bowling center contemplating a redemption merchandise strategy should ask a prospective prize supplier who their  key customers are.  That’s how you’ll know the origin of the prize range being contemplated for your location,” said Dave Schwartz, vice president of sales, BMI Merchandise. Redemption merchandisers live and breathe the trends of merchandise across the nation that not only keep the proprietors filled with relevant items for their customers, but also Dave Schwartz, vice president of sales, keep the merchandisers inventory BMI Merchandise.



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exactly where it needs to be. By utilizing technology and systems that track what goes over the counters of their customers, along with having dedicated staff keeping a finger on the pulse of the redemption business on a more global scale, redemption companies can transform analyzed data into merchandising power that yields financial gain for everyone. “We can access reporting and identify which products across all our customers have the greatest distribution. From this data, we can index our SKUs and let customers know which ones are going to fly off the shelves. By custom-designing our index that identifies and offers both core items and trending merchandise, we enable our customers to make good Michael Tipton, VP of customer success and marketing at Redemption Plus. decisions,” says Michael Tipton, vice president of customer success and marketing at Redemption Plus. Trending info is one way that redemption merchandisers use technology to add value to their customers. However, a common challenge shared within all merchandising businesses that analyze data is whether or not the data is reliable.


It is universally known that information is only as reliable as the data from which it is derived. That couldn’t be more accurate than in the world of inventory. When it comes to the use of analyzing sales and identifying trends in redemption merchandising, the situation is twofold, which is the crux of the challenge for merchandisers. While we have every technological tool available to us

REDEMPTION TRENDS today, it is how the technology is used that matters. On the side of the proprietor, there is a spectrum of POS systems and inventory tools available, most of which have the power to generate a nearly seamless inventory. What is setting these proprietors, and their merchandising partners, apart is how they are accounting for human error and POS differentiators. “There are two challenges. First, the technology we use for ordering is only as good as the information or data that is put in. Second, not all POS systems are the same. If we don’t get the right inventory data or the right POS reports, it’s almost impossible to accurately help the customer,” says Cris Millar, business development manager at Fun Express.

All top merchandisers offer solutions to their customers to smooth out the organized chaos of inventory, and they come in a variety of options. BMI is known for their stellar IT team that has a working knowledge of almost every POS system, offering standby assistance to help proprietors get the most out of the inventory tools they have. While not all merchandisers are POS experts, others specialize in creating physical inventory systems and training assistance for their customers. Either way, inventory is a two-way street where merchandisers and their customers have to intimately connect in order to produce the outcomes that both businesses need to succeed in redemption.

TO AUTOREFILL, OR NOT TO AUTO-REFILL One of the most promising techforward tools redemption merchandisers are using is auto-refill. A fairly new, concise tool for redemption, the concept is far from reinventing the wheel as retail giants have been using this technology for decades. However, the redemption industry comes with its own set of unique challenges which has called for some creative refurbishing of this exceptional method of inventory management. When merchandise is ordered, it carries a monetary value as proprietors order for their redemption store. Once the inventory is loaded into their system, it leaves their hands in exchange for tickets. This rare transition, unlike how retail normally works, has seemingly posed a question of how the merchandise is handled on the frontlines by FEC staff. With inventory management as the lynchpin to the working process of redemption, it also plays the biggest roll in ordering. Again, from one merchandiser to the other, the problem has generated a spectrum of solutions that meet the needs of a dynamic span 44


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REDEMPTION TRENDS of customers. At its best, full auto-refill works seamlessly when merchandisers Cris Millar, business are working with customers that have an exceptional understanding of inventory development manager at with systems in place to match. This option works like a well-oiled machine as Fun Express redemption merchandisers can rely fully on the inventory and sales data they receive from their customers, account for holidays and event information received, while referring to sales history to seamlessly send customers what they need, when they need it. The human factor, however, still has its place in technology. With only a fraction of customers utilizing full auto-refill, merchandisers have found that a majority of customers prefer a balance. By offering a partial auto-refill option, proprietors are able to engage at a level that is comfortable for them and retain a sense of control over their redemption store. This works best when there is a redemption manager on staff, or a dedicated crew of inventory and game specialists that take ownership for the process. Merchandisers still find plenty of room to utilize their high-tech systems with these proprietors, and ensure that merchandise is responsibly chosen by offering the right combination of items, trend information, and big picture sales analysis.

IN A WORLD OF TCHOTCHKES Setting yourself apart in a world filled with innovative technologies accessible by all can be overwhelming. Recent history is already telling us that technology is not an end-all solution — it is a tool and how we use it is what matters. By leveraging technology that matches up with customer needs, merchandisers have hit the ground running and are at the top of the list for best use of tech tools to evolve the world of redemption. At the same time, what differentiates them from one another still comes down to services offered with a heavy value on customer service—not unlike the leading characteristic of every successful FEC. 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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FREEZE FRAME Allen Weisberg, the principal and CEO of Apple Industries, Inc., focuses on what customers love – photographs.

By George McAuliffe Editor’s Note: Allen Weisberg is the principal and CEO of Apple Industries, Inc., manufacturer of Face Place products, the world’s largest photo booth manufacturer. Allen is a second-generation route operator turned manufacturer with over 45 years of game and amusement experience. His company offers photo booths in a variety of styles and sizes to fit location and customer dynamics. The photo booth has not only survived for generations but is prospering today, largely due to the innovative, passionate team at Apple spearheaded by Allen. 1. Tell us about your company. Why is Apple Industries in business? Within our company, we look at ourselves as in the photography business first — the photograph happens to be delivered through a photo booth. That reminds us always that it is about the quality of the photograph and the experience. Who doesn’t like a good photo of themselves? 2. That keeps it simple to understand. As simple as that sounds, it’s very difficult to get a great picture. Everything from lighting, the fact that there are multiple people going into the booth blocking light paths, colors. We work hard to get the photograph right and exceed the customer’s expectations. We’re also in the entertainment business. We must deliver an entertainment experience through the photo process and keep it relevant for all generations. Face Place photo booths are the first outside entertainment device that stays in touch with the consumer when they leave, since we collect their email, phone numbers, and birthdays. We can maintain an online connection, and so can our locations. 3. How did you personally get into the business? My dad, Abraham Weisberg, learned how to engineer electronics after World War II and started a vending repair company with jukeboxes and games. I started going to work with him at the age of 7 or 8 years old. The business evolved into advising manufacturers on reliability issues, and then advising in the design process. Manufacturers would



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Allen Weisberg

fly my father out to their factories, and I’d go with him. I sort of got the taste of manufacturing. At 15 or 16 years old, I built my first game, put it on location, and it made money. It was a simple game and the audience liked it. I started my own jukebox and amusement route in high school. When I came out of college, I wanted to be back in the route business, so we formed Big Apple Amusements in 1981. We started to build mini arcades in Brunswick bowling centers, and our specialty was that we figured out how to get a legal arcade license in New York, which was very restrictive. We went on to serve all the Brunswick centers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In the 1990s, the route income started dropping as the bar business went through its changes and lifestyles changed. We had a few photo booths on the route, but in those days the booth manufacturers kept ownership and the operators serviced. But we did the collections and knew they had steady sales, year in and year out. We focused on photo booths and fell in love with them. It was a niche business with generation-spanning popularity that allowed for creativity. That led to us developing the Face Place product, Big Apple became Apple Industries, and the company grew from there. IBI

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INTERESTING INTERVIEW 4. Apple has been focused on photo booths for 25 years now. To what do you attribute your longevity and success? Like any business, you have to stay relevant. Staying relevant to our customers’ locations, like bowling centers, we have to be relevant to their customers, the end users. Over the years, we rode the change from chemical to digital photo finishing. Today, our booths are a gateway to the Internet; a marketing tool with access to social media; and a fulfillment center with after-sale options online. We also have the benefit of being a part of the culture since the photo booth experience is instilled from one generation to the next, a little like bowling which has evolved over the years to stay relevant. 5. Can you give us some examples of how you do that? Internally, our team refers to us as a cable company, because we access the machines on our network and update content. Since we are in the paper business — we sell the film for the photo booth — the business model keeps us engaged in the success of the machine forever. We keep bringing in more content to keep the booth relevant. About seven years ago, we changed the technology to what we call Smile 2.0. We tried to look at photo booths the way Steve Jobs looked beyond the simple cell phone and saw the smart phone. We’ve done the same thing with a photo booth. Smile 2.0 allowed us to connect to servers, adding licensed content, and do special events, like our Share in Times Square. Customers can take a photo in my friend John LaSpina’s Maple Fun Center in Clearwater, FL, and have their photo appear on a building in Times Square. The software opened up social media access, merchandise fulfillment, holiday programming, and seasonal change, all designed for regular change to keep the experience interesting and new. 6. With the advent of the smart phone camera, we might have expected the photo machine business to decline, but your company is thriving. What’s the story there? We had hard data from our operating business and saw steady performance. We felt strongly that there’s something about a photo booth, that when you go inside, there’s a magical feel when you close the curtain that can’t be duplicated. We felt confident about that. A happy thing that we learned was that as 35mm camera and printed photos became obsolete, a new generation never saw their photos on 50


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paper, plus they were used to taking a lot more photos. That turned out to be great for the photo booth, and the future looks like photo booths will be around for another 100 years! Not a bad investment for a bowling center! 7. What is your perspective on the bowling entertainment center (BEC) in the U.S.? It is evolving, isn’t it? The business used to be a lot simpler, catering to leagues and defined segments. Today it is a community, social gathering place. We have a strong feeling at Apple that any type of entertainment source, whether that’s a bar, restaurant, bowling center, or a photo booth, for that matter, should make sure that the guest leaves with a good feeling and that they are fulfilled and had a good time. Whether it’s the service, the background music, or the activity; any piece of the business needs to add to that [good] feeling. BECs have a lot to work with in that way so we see continued growth and success. 8. How do photo machines best fit in the BEC environment? Traditional bowling centers are using our traditional bowling machine, Face Place Deluxe or our Scene Machine, best placed on the concourse for the wider audience, with cash and credit card capability. Larger, higher volume arcades are using Photo Studio Deluxe as a showpiece. It’s a work of art with modern [design] and high tech [capabilities]. We believe that photo booth income is incremental and separate money, and it doesn’t compete with games. One area where our booths are underutilized are for parties and groups. Lucky Strike puts their booths on free play for parties. Each guest gets their photo strip and, in the fourth frame, the guest of honor is featured. So each guest goes home with a remembrance of the occasion, including location logo or party date and message. 9. Any other wisdom you care to share with our readers? Build for the future, not just for today is a good life lesson. I believe in being disruptive and finding ways to give the customers something that is a little bit different and more than they expected. Whether that’s the bowling experience, the comfort of the furniture or video system, the games in the arcade, or the quality of food and beverage. We try to have our photo booths contribute to making the guest feel good about their visit as they walk out with a tangible reminder! ❖ Thanks, Allen. We wish you the best for continued success.

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 the principal of Pinnacle Entertainment Group whose clients include Embed, Redemption Plus and Shaffer Distributing Company. He writes for RePlay and International Bowling Industry magazines and speaks at FEC industry conferences.



Managing orders for parts and supplies for your center doesn’t have to be frustrating. There is now a better way to buy! QubicaAMF introduces eShop, where ordering your parts and center supplies just got amazingly easy. The QubicaAMF eShop offers easy ways to find the parts you need quickly, ensure they’re the right parts, and manage your purchases efficiently. Get started today by visiting qubicaamf.com/eshop.


Expect eruptive laughter from bowlers playing pinpix— Sync’s newest game that capitalizes on the selfie craze and uses facial recognition technology to create a rip-roaring good time! Guests can upload selfies from their mobile device or snap them with the scoring tablet to use as their in-game avatar. As the game is played, bowlers’ photos will be transformed with app-quality filters like hats, beards, or wacky accessories, and players can sabotage each other with the pinpix exclusive photobombs! When the game is done, the system’s revolutionary marketing automation allows centers to send guests’ scores and hilarious selfies right to their email, keeping your center top-of-mind and encouraging return visits with customized offers and coupons. Learn more about pinpix by visiting BrunswickBowling.com.


Bay Tek Games’ Connect 4 Hoops combines the oldfashioned gameplay of Connect 4 board game with a sporty, larger-than-life twist by playing with full-size basketballs. One or two players shoot baskets and watch as their basketballs magically fall into place on the LED-projected grid. The first player to align four balls horizontally, vertically, or diagonally on the augmented reality playfield wins! This popular Hasbro license makes game play intuitive, encouraging both basketball and nonbasketball players to get in on the fun. It’s fun and easy to play, even if you’re no pro. Shoot and miss entirely? You get a redo! Even though it’s easy to sink a basket, where it lands determines your fate, so accuracy is key. Hoops is available now outside of the U.S. and will be available to the general U.S. market in mid-October.


Apple Industries’ Face Place Scene Machine 2 has a new retro look on the outside, including programmable LED lights, with scenes on the inside that still embrace green screen technology to deliver an interactive photo booth experience. Users are ‘dropped into a scene’ of their choice, ranging from aliens in outer space to underwater scenes where they can swim with all types of fish! With the cutting-edge Smile 2.0 software, customers can share their photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even on a video billboard in the middle of Time Square and all the while promoting your brand with your logo attached to each print. Find out more at www.faceplacephoto.com.


The Shaffer Distributing Company, family-owned since 1929, represents virtually every manufacturer of video, redemption, and specialty arcade games in the amusement game industry. Headquartered in Columbus, OH, Shaffer has four additional full-service offices: Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. Shaffer provides sales and service to FEC customers throughout the U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska, as well as Canada. Shaffer is your one-stop FEC distributor providing consultation, game room design, logistical support, unmatched installation, training, and follow-up parts and service support. Building strong relationships, mutual trust, and carefully listening to the needs of our customers are essential to the core values of the Shaffer Distributing Company. Please contact George Speakman or Bill Kraft at (800) 282-0194 for more information.


August 2018



Chris Keller Bowler, proprietor, inventor.

By Joan Taylor


t was practically in his genes that Chris Keller would become a bowler. His father, Clinton, a pin chaser in Queens, NY, met his mother, Louise, when she bowled with her gal pals. “I fell in love with the sport, just from watching Dad,” Keller said. His love of the sport evolved from youth to adult to pro. “I joined the PBA and bowled on the summer tour,” he said. He went to the first PBA school and drove to the tour stops in a motorhome; just a regular professional bowler. Then Fate handed him a golden opportunity. “I was practicing on the lanes before the rabbit (pro tour qualifier) squad and saw all the guys cutting Curity (medical) tape off rolls to insert into their balls for better fit.” That’s when the idea came to him to come up with tape that was pre-cut specifically for bowlers. “I went back to New York and immediately went to a manufacturer who told me to get a patent first. So I got a trademark and went back to 3M and Permacel and they helped me develop it.” He introduced it at the Long Island Open pro tournament in 1986 after getting a finalized product only two days earlier. He had 4,000 piece rolls and cut strips off for the pros.



August 2018

It was an instant hit! By the time he was 23, Chris Keller was a millionaire and hundreds, now thousands, of bowlers were no longer wasting their time with tape and scissors. He owned Bowlers Tape Inc. By 1992, his company had grown by leaps and bounds. “We were doubling and tripling in sales every year, selling it all over the world. We went to trade shows including Bowl Expo.” During Expo week in 1992, Phil Knisely, the CEO of AMF, saw Chris in an elevator. He recognized young Keller and introduced himself,

followed by an offer “to start a relationship with AMF.” The company bought Bowlers Tape Inc. and included Keller in the deal. Chris moved his wife, Leta, and infant son, Lee, to Virginia. AMF named Keller to run the accessory arm of the consumer products division, featuring bowling accessories and, of course the bowlers tape. The relationship has lasted to this day. December of 2017 marked his 25th year with QubicaAMF. Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker. The Kellers moved back to Farmingville on Long Island in 1995. He served AMF there by organizing the pro shops within their 400 centers. Two years later, he became district sales manager for New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. All of this rekindled his passion not only as a bowler but fueled his desire to own a bowling center, maybe two. In 2008, he partnered with his bowling friend, Rob Eggert, to buy Patchogue Bowl, a 40-lane center. “It was run down, so we did about a million dollars in renovations.” In 2014, he partnered with business associate Jeffrey Rimland and became the half-owner of All Star Lanes in Riverhead, NY. Eventually, he sold his interest in Patchogue to Eggert who still owns it. He then bought Rimland’s interest in All Star Lanes, becoming the sole

PROFILE owner of a 28-lane high end boutique bowling center. It offers six VIP lanes, a high end sports restaurant, and an arcade. Among the upgrades and renovations, he installed QubicaAMF Bes X scoring. He added games to the arcade and outdoor seating for the sports restaurant. “It’s beautiful. It’s my dream bowling center.” Unlike most owner/proprietors, Keller also bowls in a mixed league at All Star. He bowls in a more competitive league at Patchogue. “You have to experience the bowling center to fully appreciate it,” Keller said. And now for the pièce de résistance. “The All Star is one of the most beautiful bowling centers in the country. We have a seating area in the foyer. It’s where you are greeted.” But Chris wanted more; something unique to set his center apart from anything else in the country. “I visited the bowling campus in Arlington (TX). There is a huge bowling pin and ball at their Hall of Fame. And there’s a huge outdoor pin outside the campus. So I commissioned a local

New York artist, Chip Hunter, to create a sculpture for the entrance to my bowling center to make a statement. We are going to have an unveiling fundraiser for my friend’s wife who has MS. As our pin and ball are made totally of mosaic, we will ask people to guess how many pieces of mosaic are on them.” “The mosaic ball sculpture will weigh 300 pounds, and the pin, 200 pounds.” What does the future hold for this showplace? “I want to continually improve The All Star as much as I can. I want to

PRESIDENTIAL CONNECTION “When I first worked for AMF, they asked if I would be willing to drill a bowling ball for the President. I thought they meant AMF President Phil Knisely. They said, ‘No. It’s for THE President of the United States, Bill Clinton.’ I had to get clearance through the Secret Service, and on my birthday in 1994, I went to the White House with (AMF staffer) Steve Wunderlich and measured and drilled bowling balls for Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea. Actually, our first meeting got cancelled because President Clinton was signing the Arab Israeli Peace Accord. So it was rescheduled for a week later, and we had lunch with the President in the White House. We had a great day there. President Clinton is an avid bowler. I drilled his first ball with a conventional grip. Bill said, ‘I bowled in the 180s in college. Can you drill the next ball as fingertip? ‘ “A White House staffer had to accompany us when I said I needed to use a restroom. We walked through the pristine White House with all its history. In one area was a charred cinderblock wall. We were told that in 1814, during the War of 1812, the British burned down the White House, and it is the one remaining wall which was never repainted or replaced, as part of history. It was amazing to hear that and then to touch the wall.”



August 2018

continue to be proud that I own it. I may open another center. My former partner, Jeffrey Rimland, is a developer. We may possibly open another All Star, but, for now, I am continuing my projects at the (Riverhead) All Star.” And so the bowler-come-millionaire has come full circle. He is still a bowler but happens to also be a millionaire and center owner, giving back to the sport and industry every day. Chris Keller summed it up perfectly: “It’s my passion.” ❖

Joan Taylor is a multi-award winning bowling writer based in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

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August 2018




LARGE INVENTORY USED EQUIPMENT: 16 lanes synthetic panels, foulline forward; 60 lanes, pindecks; 40 lanes Steltronic auto scoring, “Focus”; or 24 lanes Steltronic auto scoring, “Wins”; or 60 lanes Qubica auto scoring. Will separate all and/or sell parts. Conversion boards for flat screen conversion, for any brand; 40 lanes Vantage or Brunswick GLO swing seating, very nice; ZOT belt-drive “ball kickers”; 16 or 24-lane pkg, completely modernized & beautiful, will relocate to your location; could include Laser Tag. knotritellc@gmail.com.

Certified Brunswick mechanic versed on all American and Japanese serial machines and ZOT conversions. Seeking part time or full time in the Denver and central Colorado area. Will furnish all tools and equipment. Very experienced; with excellent references. Call (303) 948-8770 or (720) 527-4287.

NEW & USED Pro Shop Equipment. Jayhawk Bowling Supply. (800) 255-6436 or jayhawkbowling.com.

ATTENTION: AMF 82-30 owners! Chassis rebuilding & all AMF 82-30 motor rebuilding. One-year guarantee. We deliver. [We reserve the right to decline service.] For information, call (330) 716-5735.

REPAIR & EXCHANGE. Call for details (248) 375-2751.

EQUIPMENT WANTED LANE MACHINES WANTED. We will purchase your KEGEL-built machine, any age or condition. Call (608) 764-1464.

CENTERS FOR SALE CENTRAL IDAHO: Busy, updated, 8-lane (synthetic) center: electronic scorekeeping, league play & 50-seat restaurant with drive thru. Easy highway access. Assumable loan. Call (775) 720-2726 for more details. FLORIDA: Central. Attractive, mid-sized center with revenues trending up. Owner retiring. Call David Driscoll (352) 735-8065.

EDUCATION & TRAINING PRO SHOP TRAINING. Classes always forming. Jayhawk Bowling Supply (800) 255-6436 or jayhawkbowling.com.


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August 2018



August 2018



TECHNICIAN NEEDED QubicaAMF, the world’s largest bowling equipment provider, is seeking a technician wanting to take their skills to the next level by joining our Technical Support team located in Richmond, Virginia. We are seeking a self-motivated professional with excellent communication skills, who pays attention to details, is a great listener and technical troubleshooter. The ideal candidate will have practical knowledge on lanes, ball returns and scoring equipment and working knowledge of pinspotters and/or pinsetters. They will know safety procedures and standards of bowling equipment. Can easily troubleshoot, identify and suggest repairs and/or replacements of malfunctioning bowling equipment. This position will be will be responsible for answering incoming calls for customers, conducting comprehensive assessments of issues, troubleshooting and providing solutions to challenges. We offer a competitive compensation package which includes medical and a 401K plan. If you have the desire to work for the market leader in the industry, please send your resume along with a cover letter detailing your experience to Peggy Martin at pmartin@qubicaamf.us.



August 2018

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August 2018



Charlie Brown & Friends

A Blanket to the Rescue. harlie Brown and his gang have been around too long to point to a date—1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s. The comic strip is nigh on to immortal. While Charlie and Lucy are predominantly the stars, there is a raft of supporting characters—those go-to-guys that keep the story moving along. So, here we are in the middle of summer. Kids are going to bowling centers to cool off, to enjoy being with their friends, and giving their parents a break. Linus van Pelt, Lucy’s brother, first arrived on the scene in 1952. We all can relate to his affection and need for his blankie. (I still have my daughter’s.) How many times have you bowled and wished that, at that last moment, you could have brought into play Linus’ blanket? Even Franklin is in awe. Enjoy your dog days of summer and for heaven’s sake go bowling! ❖


- Patty Heath



August 2018

Profile for International Bowling Industry Magazine

IBI August 2018 Issue  

IBI August 2018 Issue  

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