Bob Petersen is not acquainted merely in passing with Juneau’s “Pinz” bowling alley — he’d been bowling there for decades.
So when an opportunity came to pick up the ailing business three years ago, he took it.
“I’ve been bowling here since the ‘70s, in high school, and I didn’t want to see it close down,” Petersen said during an interview. “That was the next option for the owners.”
Petersen and his wife, Lisa, took over the business and began refits ranging from the plumbing to the kitchen to the bar to lanes and associated machinery itself.
“It was pretty run down. We’re still doing stuff to get things back up and running, working better,” Petersen said. “It was just not taken care of. Things weren’t being kept up. We had all sorts of issues with lanes not working right, ball returns not working right.”
After picking up the struggling business, some immediate work was needed. Petersen, who works in construction professionally, handled most of it himself, he said.
“It’s definitely gotten much better. I’ve seen that place go through three different owners,” said Joe Deluna, a longtime bowler. “He fixed the scoring system, which is long overdue. I feel like with what he’s done, it’s great changes.”
A thorough overhaul
The refits needed were both internal and external, Petersen said.
“We’ve redone all the plumbing in the building, all the drains. COVID helped us with that one. We were shut down for six weeks and we redid it then. Ripped all the walls apart, replaced all the plumbing,” Petersen said. “We’ve had to get em up to snuff, just working right.”
Next on Petersen’s agenda is the roof, which has had issues in the past, he said.
“The roof was a big issue. It’s pretty well not leaking now,” Petersen said. “Hopefully, this summer we’ll have it all resealed.”
While most things are pretty well solvable, Petersen said, the machinery for the lanes is a complicated maintenance issue. “The lanes are the trickiest,” Petersen said. “The machines, I’m learning more and more about them all the time. There’s a lot of moving parts. There’s hundreds of moving parts back there you have to watch out for and keep track of and oil.”
Getting back the crowds
For Petersen, the next part of the plan is to get people back into the bowling alley, a tricky feat in the warm summer months.
“COVID kept people away. We’re getting more and more people coming back,” Petersen said. “My Square reader is telling me how many new customers, how many repeat customers — we’re seeing about 40% new customers a month.”
Bowling has had a decrease in popularity, Deluna said, exacerbated by the enforced mitigation measures
“During the winter time, August-September-ish through May, there used to be a league day Monday through Friday and Sunday,” Deluna said. “Unfortunately, bowling has gone down in popularity.”
Upgraded systems and an overhauled infrastructure alongside the easing of COVID measures will hopefully see a return of bowlers to the business, Deluna said.
“We’d like to see it pick back up again but that’s going to take some time. Since Bob’s upgrading the systems I think you’re going to see an increase in popularity,” Deluna said. “As long as Bob keeps doing what he’s doing, I think you’ll see a rise of bowlers.”
Petersen said he plans to bring back tournaments and hopes to restart a youth league.
“We’re going to start running some tournaments. I’m planning to have some tournaments that even open bowlers can bowl,” Petersen said. “We want to get youth bowling running again. It helps get more people in. It gets the kids interested. We do a lot of high school classes here in the spring.”
With updated systems and the necessities of the building rebuilt, Deluna said, he’s excited to see new life breathed into the bowling alley.
“There’s some amazing bowlers in this town. When I started working there when I was 14, every single lane was packed- lanes were going, drinks were flowing. I’d love to see it pick back up,” Deluna said. “When you get the gratifying feeling of shooting a high-score game, you want to do it again.”