Solving problems is right up his alley |

Solving problems is right up his alley

Sideline Stories
Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs CO. Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox

RIFLE, Colo. ” Telling Jack Bowles he can’t do something is the ticket to getting that something done.

When local businessmen told the owner of Rifle Fireside Lanes that reopening shop after an arsonist destroyed his business wasn’t sensible, his resolve only strengthened.

“I’m kind of stubborn,” Bowles proudly admitted before offering a story as evidence. “When I built my house in Silt, a log home, I got it all done and my wife asked my mom, ‘I just can’t figure out why he wanted to build that stupid house.’ She said, ‘That’s easy, because someone told him he couldn’t do it.'”

The fire now nearly two years in the rear view, Bowles is enjoying the new, old digs. Walk into the bowing alley and you’ll likely find the 63-year-old Bowles manning the front desk or doing all the behind-the-scenes work it takes to maintain such an establishment.

Bowles, who’s plied a number of trades in an active life, had never even ventured into the back of a bowling alley before landing a job at New Castle’s Burning Mountain Bowl in the early 2000s. There, he learned the ins and outs of the business before parting ways in 2005.

“I was just kind of looking for something else to do,” Bowles said. “They were willing to take a chance on me. I had never even seen the back of a bowling alley before.”

A mechanic of multiple disciplines ” automobile, truck, earth-moving equipment, among others ” Bowles has never had issues figuring out how things tick. Service time in the Navy learning electronics and a lengthy career as a computer technician at IBM didn’t hurt, either.

“There isn’t much I haven’t tried,” Bowles reflected.

Tooled with behind-the-scenes alley knowledge, Bowles ” and his wife, Ava ” bought Fireside Lanes from Garfield County commissioner Larry McCown in June 2005. Approximately four months later, and before they could even open the doors to the place, an arsonist’s wrath more or less gutted the structure.

But nine months of piecing together the tragedy’s remnants culminated in Fireside’s long-awaited grand opening last spring. The Bowleses ” including the couple’s son, Lonnie ” did much of the rebuilding work themselves, with help from contractors and various community members sprinkled in.

With the insurance companies paying out only a percentage of the cost, making it all happen on the cheap proved critical. Bowles looked to alleys that were closing for equipment bargains.

After scoffing at a $72,000 estimate for new scoring monitors, he scored a major bargain from a closing alley in Phoenix.

“That was a bit over budget,” Bowles joked. “So I took the truck and trailer and headed to Phoenix. For $2,000, we got all the monitors for a 24-lane house. And we have a few spare parts left over.”

Beyond bargain searching, the Bowleses sold off their two houses and office building in Silt and got a trailer in Rifle to throw a little more cash behind rebuilding efforts. A friendly couple also loaned them money on an easy-interest basis.

Though his equipment may not be equipped with all the bells and whistles of newer alleys ” Fireside has old pin-setting machinery and wooden, as opposed to more modern synthetic, lanes ” but Jack doesn’t mind.

“It’s kind of like working on an old Jeep,” he said. “It’s a good, solid machine that just needs attention. Take care of it and it’ll last forever. Don’t take care of it and it lasts maybe a year.”

With a little tweaking here and there, Jack hopes to run the 12-lane alley for at least five or six more years.

For now, he’s just enjoying the daily grind and interaction with people.

“It’s just a people thing,” Bowles said. “Getting to know everyone better. There’s some people that come up here from Parachute every Tuesday. One’s got a weird-shaped thumb, so I drilled out a thumb on a house ball. I keep it in the pro shop just for her.”

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