KENT: Fourteen years ago, Bill White Sr. sold Twin Star Lanes, a bowling alley he had owned for more than a quarter of a century.
Early this year, White learned that AMF, the company he sold the business to in 1998, planned to close to alley on state Route 59 for financial reasons. White, who still owns Bill White's Akron Lanes on Waterloo Road in Springfield, decided to buy Twin Star Lanes back and reestablish his business' footprint in Portage County.
On Monday, White and a collection of local government and community leaders, family members and employees gathered to recognize his renewed ownership of the alley with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the lanes.
White was joined by his wife Eddye, Lori Wemhoff, executive director of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce, Brady Lake Mayor Hal Lehman, Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala, general manager Barb Lash, manager Keith Lang and assistant general manager Dave Schwallie for the ceremony. They snipped a red ribbon, which stretched across several lanes as some of his new customers enjoyed their time bowling at the other end of the facility.
The alley was scheduled to close for good on July 27, but White's acquisition meant it was able to stay open. Still, some work was needed to bring the facility back to standard and scrub away a layer of dust and decay that had set in when the alley was run as AMF Twin Star Lanes.
"You can see the (digital scoring) screens better now, there was a thick layer of dust on them. You couldn't even see the yellow in the carpet either," White said, gesturing to the colorful floor beneath his feet.
White also changed the digital scoring system at the 40-lane alley, upgrading the existing version for one that was simpler to use and featuring easier-to-read graphics. He also changed the prices, which he believes were too high and comparable to those in much larger cities with a higher cost of living.
"They were charging the same prices to bowl that you would pay in New York or Chicago and that just doesn't work here," White continued. "Our biggest problem was that they had lost most of their business charging what you would charge in bigger cities."
Bill White Sr.'s name is on a special display on the wall just inside the front door of Twin Star Lanes, alongside the other members of the Portage County Bowling Hall of Fame. The era has changed since White was racking up strikes and winning tournaments in his prime, as evidenced by the seven 50-inch flat screen TVs to help keep patrons entertained in between rolls at they compete. Still, there is enthusiasm in his eyes as he surveys his newest business and energy in his voice as he takes the microphone and speaks over the public address system to give directions to his employees.
Twin Star Lanes is proof that some things old can become new again. White also hopes they can become profitable as well.