Bowling alley to reopen
When the demand for bowling league games comes in August, Greencastle will abide. The old alley will reopen.
News travels fast in a small community like Greencastle, and since Garry and Valerie Waters bought the old bowling alley on March 29, the couple has found this to be even truer than they knew.
Not long after they opened the front doors for the first time, a steady stream of community members have been asking them questions.
"We've heard a lot of rumors about his place since we bought it," Valerie said. "They'll be surprised when they see it."
There's a lot of work left to do, but with a few lanes already open and paperwork going through the city to open the bar and restaurant, hope is the alley will open on Aug. 1.
A nice, quiet little community
Even before it closed, the alley was starting to break down. Balls were being damaged.
The roof leaked so much a tail of water kicked up behind the balls as they traveled toward the pins.
When the Waters walked in the first time they discovered the place pretty much as the previous owner left it when it closed two years earlier.
With the state the building was in, rebuilding had to start somewhere.
"The first thing we did was fix the roof," Garry said.
Garry has been working in construction for more than 30 years. He's a general supervisor now. Restoring the bowling alley has become his biggest project.
"It's my semiretirement," Garry said. "We wanted to give the kids something to do around here. Besides get in trouble."
When the alley reopens it will have a new name, A 'n J Bowl, a recognition of the couple's five children: Jennifer, Anthony, James, Andy and Joe.
With that many children living in their Cloverdale home, there was hardly a time there weren't at least 10 or 15 kids (friends, grandchildren) around, Garry said.
As the kids have gotten older, the couple has looked for a new way to stay busy.
The owners aren't especially avid bowlers. Garry's high score is 232, though at his peak he averaged around 170 in league play years ago. Valerie has only bowled for fun.
For them, running the bowling alley will be a fun way to help the community.
"We're a family with five kids and there were times we couldn't afford to do things," Valerie said. "So we need to have the prices where people can come here."
They plan to operate with their family working most of the shifts to start.
Last week 10 (of 14) lanes were certified by the United States Bowling Congress to hold league games, and the owners hope to bring back all of the leagues that were in town before the alley closed in the spring of 2010.
Because they have never run a bowling alley (or any other retail business) some questions and insecurities have come up for Garry and Valerie.
Lucky for the owners, one of the community members who came knocking was Dustin McKinney, a bowling alley veteran who has been helping out as a mechanic and consultant.
Sometimes there's a man
The bowling alley has been a part of the community for 50 years and when it closed in the spring of 2010, the city lost something.
"A lot of people are attached to this place," McKinney said. "A lot of people grew up here."
Himself included. McKinney began bowling when he was 4 years old. He got his first job at the lanes when he was starting high school.
When he heard rumors that the bowling alley might be opening back up, he came knocking.
"I came in and asked them 20 questions," McKinney said. "I'd always wanted to come in and take this place over."
McKinney has worked in bowling since he started and he achieved a degree from Vincennes University in bowling management.
Since then he's worked at and managed numerous centers in Indiana and Louisiana.
With the Waters' limited experience in the industry, they welcomed him with open arms.
"We'll take all the help we can get," Valerie said. "It's overwhelming. You've got to trust a lot of people."
In addition to his other roles, McKinney has been teaching the Waters' sons to work on the lane machines.
McKinney has been passionate about bowling his whole life but he rolls less these days.
"I enjoy running the centers more than actually bowling," McKinney said. "Giving the customers what they're supposed to get and not what they expect to get."
Customer service and community service will be stressed at A 'n J.
They plan to be open for lunch and hope to serve the factory workers and nearby DePauw students.
There will also be a military wall honoring Putnam County members who have served.
This is a particular passion for the Waters'. They've had three of their children join after high school.
The plan is to be open 7 days a week and to bring back the youth league on Saturdays, having cosmic bowling in the evening and eventually be able to host parties.
With some lanes already going, the alley could be open for bowling in July, before the restaurant and bar become available.
Anyone wishing to sign up for league play can do so now by calling 301-9060.
If early indications mean anything there should be no problem finding competition.
"We've gotten a lot of good vibes from the community," Valerie said.