This year Canada Day will mark more than just the 135th birthday of our nation. It will signal a new beginning for Elmira Bowl when, for the first time in more than 25 years, a new pair of owners will start calling the shots. Mary and Karl Jordan have sold the business to Jen Galbraith and Jeff Young of Ingersoll, and the young couple takes possession of the building July 1.
“We want to carry on the tradition of the Jordans,” said Young, who decided to purchase the building with his new fiancée back in February.
“They had something good going here, and we want to make sure it continues on into the future.”
First owned and operated by Roland Ruppel, the First Street business exchanged a few hands before the Jordans bought it in 1986. Since then they’ve made numerous improvements, including computerized scoring, updated décor that replaced the old yellow fiberglass benches and wooden chairs and tables with new seating, tables and carpets.
They also made a sizable $100,000 investment two years ago to update the old wooden lanes to new synthetic ones.
The new floors offer a wide range of advantages over the old wooden floors, Karl said at the time. Over the years, wooden floors become uneven and dented from bowlers walking in the same areas over and over again, and from the impact of the bowling balls.
The synthetic material is a combination of resin and woven fiberglass, and is known for its high tensile strength and ability to absorb impact – making it ideal for bowling alleys. It’s almost a centimeter and a half thick, and helps reduce the amount of maintenance necessary.
The couple will come armed with a wealth of industry knowledge, as the Galbraith family owns and operates the five-pin alley in Ingersoll, and she said she grew up in the business. Likewise, Young said his family was avid bowlers while he was growing up, and he spent time working at two separate alleys over the years as well.
“It seemed like a natural progression to have one of our own,” he said of the purchase.
The deal was supposed to close on June 1, but some administrative delays have pushed that date back to July. The couple has been working in the alley since the beginning of June, however, giving them a chance to learn the ropes and get to know some of the locals.
Galbraith said bowlers have been very welcoming, and they’ve been certainly keeping busy; they hosted the five-pin tournament for the Senior Games last week, as well as a private birthday party later that evening.
“It’s pretty much the same, even the attitude and the demeanor of the bowlers. They’re like a little family,” Galbraith said when asked to compare Elmira Bowl to her family’s operation.
The similarities don’t end there, though. Galbraith’s parents installed the same synthetic floors about seven years ago, and the Elmira alley even has the same number of lanes as the Ingersoll alley: eight.
There is also a long-standing connection between the Jordans and the new owners; their daughter, Karole McDonnell, has known Young for more than a decade and Galbraith for about six years. They met while at various bowling competitions over the years, and formed a friendship.
Galbraith even said that McDonnell approached her a few years ago about purchasing the alley from her parents, but the timing just wasn’t right.
While the couple says their aim is to continue the tradition started by the Jordans, they also have a grand vision for the alley, including more upgrades and updates to the interior, such a new computer scoring system that Young said is “much more user-friendly and has better graphics.”
They also intend to move from their home in Ingersoll to Elmira as soon as they can. Galbraith has left her job at her parent’s alley to work in Elmira, and Young said he will keep his job as an aviation painter in Hamilton until they get up to speed in Elmira, then he intends to quit his job as well.
“This is our dream to be here and working together,” he said.
They also know that they face a difficult task in getting five-pin bowling back into the mainstream in Elmira, as they are always competing against other sports and more modern forms of entertainment such as video games.
“It’s a Canadian game and we grew up in the alleys and that tradition is very important to us,” Young said.
“It’s unfortunate that a lot of places are closing down, and we just want to make sure that this place isn’t one of them.”
Visit their website, www.elmirabowl.com, for details on booking lanes or for more information.