Big plans at the bowling alley in El Jebel
The Aspen Times
The new owners of El JeBowl are sparing nothing in their quest to strike a chord with young adults in the midvalley.
Craig Spivey and Tom Weber, partners in Bowlounge in Dallas, purchased the bowling business in El Jebel on Aug. 15. They bought the bowling alley from the Stecklein family, which started it in 1992. The building is owned and leased by the Crawford family, longtime owners of El Jebel property.
El JeBowl is closed for renovations but will reopen to the public in mid-September as Bowlounge, according to Spivey. It will open for league play later in the month.
The partners think they’ve got a business plan that will attract a whole new generation of bowlers without alienating their older, established clientele. They will target young adults.
“We need to move the bowling alley into the next century,” Weber said.
Bowling alleys across the country are closing because they didn’t change with the times and adapt to appeal to younger customers, Weber said. The Stecklein family has done a great job keeping up the equipment and operating the bowling alley for nearly 25 years, but it could use an update and rebranding, Weber said.
“We kind of feel like we’ve saved this place,” he said.
The 16 bowling lanes and equipment will remain unchanged. Virtually everything else is undergoing an extreme makeover.
The bar was in a dark, secluded room to the side, away from the action. The bar room will be opened up and the bar itself wrapped around toward the current food counter, doubling the seating. The bar and other decor will be covered with recycled wood from bowling lanes.
Bowlounge in El Jebel will carry 20 or so microbrews on tap and feature local brewers. They also will serve specialty drinks inspired by the movie “The Big Lebowski,” including All the Way, The Jesus, Donnie’s Element and, of course, The Dude.
The restaurant, which has drawn rave reviews for years for the food served by Jonathan Fuentes Morano, will continue to feature special entrees along with the baked and fried chicken and other food that’s proved popular at Bowlounge in Dallas.
For the first time, the bar and restaurant will have wait staff.
Sports bar atmosphere
The arcade, currently in a secluded, rear room, will be opened up. They will install two pool tables, video games and possibly a shuffleboard game. A pro shop, where people can be fitted for bowling balls and have finger holes drilled, will operate in the back of the building, if Matt Stecklein so chooses, Weber said.
They also are cleaning up the landscaping and painting the exterior.
They won’t be adding bowling lanes. Weber said 16 lanes are quite a few, especially since intense use is centered on Fridays, Saturday and Sundays.
The partners are trying to create an atmosphere that will attract people to hang out, even if they aren’t bowling. It will have a sports bar feel with several televisions showing sporting events when possible and vintage music videos from the 1980s and ’90s.
They will keep all the leagues going. Weber said some longtime customers have popped in to look at the work and welcomed the changes, particularly to the bar.
While the bowling alley will be family-friendly, the partners emphasized they are focusing on making the bowling alley a fun place for young adults to hang out.
“This is going to be a very bar-friendly place,” Weber said.
Spivey and Weber hope to attract as much corporate business, private parties and special events as they can.
The bowling alley’s web address is http://www.bowleljebel.com.
Nearly 25 years
Matt Stecklein started the bowling alley in 1992 with his dad, William Stecklein, and Glen Harris. It was a tough decision to sell after nearly 25 years, but it was time for something different, he said.
“I’d like to thank all the patrons and encourage them to keep coming back,” Stecklein said.
Spivey and Weber opened their first bowling alley in the Dallas Design District and, after finding success there, looked for expansion opportunities. They learned about El JeBowl and explored the growth potential. They believe the Roaring Fork Valley has got high potential for growth because of limited entertainment options, especially for young adults.
John Hornblower of VR Business Brokers of Aspen was the listing broker for the business and he managed the sale for the Stecklein family.
Weber said the Steckleins did a great job running the business for nearly 25 years. Now he and Spivey want to build on the success.
“Hopefully we’re not killing anything that’s working,” Weber said.
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