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BOWLING just keeps on rolling
Manager Mike Elkhart knows the bowlers and greets them by name as they come in. He asks about their health, their families, friends and neighbors. It's the sort of place where everybody knows everybody, starting with Elkhart.
He has been managing Sequim's only bowling alley for nearly four years and truly loves his job.
"Everybody around here knows me," Elkhart said as he glanced around the quickly filling lanes at the bowling alley.
"They know that I'm very flexible. If I'm here, it's open and I'll stay open as long as people are here to bowl."
He said regulars from Sequim, as well as Port Townsend, Port Hadlock, Port Gamble and other areas, come at least once a week to bowl. The six-lane facility hosts leagues, open bowling and reserved lanes for parties.
Elkhart's father, Vern Elkhart, owns the business, as well as Laurel Lanes in Port Angeles. When Laurel Lanes underwent a renovation last summer, the Sequim location also benefitted. Elkhart installed the electronic scoring system, which he sees as a huge boon to bowlers.
"Instead of throwing that stuff away, we brought it here and recycled it to use in
Sequim," Mike Elkhart said.
He estimates that the bowling alley was built in the 1950s because some of the parts he discovered were stamped with dates. Back then, he said, it was built for manual pin setting, with people behind the lanes setting up the pins.
Elkhart grew up around bowling, with his father running the 16-lane Laurel Lanes for as long as he can remember.
"When I was a kid, I didn't get it, but now I understand why my dad put in so much time at the bowling alley," Elkhart said.
"He really loves the business and what it takes to make it successful and keep things running."
His father has owned the business in Sequim for more than 10 years, Elkhart said. "He's leased it out a few times, but nobody has been able to make a go of it."
Bowling rolling again
So, he's made it his mission to get things rolling again. And he's learned that it's a very labor-intensive job.
"I spend a lot of time on maintenance," he said. "I'm twisting wrenches, repairing parts and sometimes even making new parts that will work with the old parts."
Sheri McClanahan works five days a week as the only other employee at Sequim Olympic Lanes. Besides keeping the lanes operational, the pair also sell food and alcohol, bowling balls, shoes and equipment. Darts and video games also are available in the smoke-free facility.
McClanahan said one of the biggest challenges is letting people know about the business.
"So many people come in and tell us that they just found out that we were here," McClanahan said.
Once people do discover it, they realize that it's beneficial to people of all ages.
"People tell us that they love the fact that they can get the kids away from the video games and come out and bowl," she said.
"For the families, this is one of the few indoor things that they can come and do together." Many people also bring in relatives who are visiting from out of town.
League bowling is popular at the facility with groups such as the Sunlanders One Bowling League. It includes 24 bowlers and about a dozen substitutes who come together every Tuesday between October and April to bowl.
Cheryl Coulter, the league's secretary, said the group enjoys the physical activity as well as the social aspect.
"We come to bowl and have fun and to go to dinner afterward," Coulter said.
"We're all a bit competitive, but it's really more of a social activity."
She has bowled with the group since she moved to Sequim 13 years ago and said it's nice that the facility is so close and that people can get there easily.
Karl Kelley, the Sunlanders league's president agreed. He said the group has chosen to support the Sequim bowling alley, rather than to drive to Port Angeles, because they want to support a local business and show that there is enough interest in Sequim to sustain a larger establishment if that opportunity arises.
He also gave Elkhart credit for keeping the facility open.
"Mike has done a masterful job of keeping this bowling alley together," Kelley said.
"He has installed automated score-keeping equipment that was never designed for this type of alley but has been able to retrofit it successfully."
He said Elkhart struggles every week to keep the equipment running in spite of the fact that the pin setters should have been retired years ago.
"He is doing a wonderful job of keeping this business viable," Kelley said.
"It's a local business that deserves local support."
Elkhart said Tuesdays and Thursdays are the busiest days for league bowling.
"This is a retirement town and a lot of people are looking for things to do," he said.
"Coming here is a great way for them to get together with other people and have a good time."