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FOODIE RUSTICA: SEPTEMBER 2008

Bowling Made Chic

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(Sept. 20, 2008)— Since the end of World War II, bowling in America has carried the cache of entertainment for the middle- and working-class, says Andrew Hurley, author of Diners, Bowling Alleys and Trailer Parks (2002)—a far cry from the sport’s early-20th century reputation when it was considered a seedy past-time, mainly because bowling alleys were adjuncts to saloons and serving as pin boys—decades before the invention of automatic pin spotters—were transient workers.

Fast forward to the late 1990s and the bowling demographics shifted again. With cosmic bowling centers opening, younger generations could enjoy glow-in-the-dark bowling and supreme sound systems blasting hip music. Today, with venues such as Lucky Strike at the Block of Orange, Strike Orange County at The District Tustin Legacy and 300 at Anaheim Gardenwalk, bowling has not only become trendy, it’s become ritzy, enticing yet a new crowd of recreational bowlers.

“Before the introduction of the upscale bowling concept, a relatively large segment of consumers weren’t bowling because the amenities had not evolved to their standards,” says Paul Barkley, SVP of New Center Development and head of the 300 brand. “Our target customer expects a certain level of service from any company that they do business with—and bowling is no different.” Now the term “bowling centers” has been traded in for “bowling lounges,” boasting plush furnishing, upscale bar menus and a sultry ambiance and resulting in positive economic impacts locally and nationally.

“Strike Holdings has several of the highest grossing bowling-entertainment properties in the world,” says the company’s founder and CEO Tom Shannon. “In every instance, their opening has increased the value of the adjoining real estate and enabled the landlord to get higher rents for those surrounding spaces. After Strike Miami opened, the landlord was able to fill adjoining spaces, which were difficult to fill beforehand.”

While this concept heralds an upscale look and feel compared to traditional bowling centers, bowling lounges still appeal to broad range of consumers. “Strike fits perfectly into the vision of The District Tustin Legacy by providing a unique entertainment venue that appeals everyone from families hosting birthday parties to happy-hour seeking professionals or those watching a big game on plasma monitors.”

Lucky Strike in Orange stresses community involvement to help its bottom line. “We do a lot of cross promotional programs to drive traffic and revenue to the area,” says Jen Perrymore, marketing manager for Lucky Strike. “We also support a number of community charity events. It is part of our mission statement to promote good works nationally and locally.”

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