It’s Friday night on Palmer Street. Strokes of blue light with accents of pink are painted across the canvas of the lanes. The patterns created by the light dance enthusiastically, accompanying the music that fills the room with a deep bass. The clattering of pins as they fall to the ground and the smooth tap of bowling shoes mingle with vibrant laughter. Rollerbowl Lanes continues its long- standing tradition of entertaining customers from all walks of life.
Since its opening in 1958, Rollerbowl has proven to be a staple of the Athens community. Owner Roger Kasler, son of the original owner, attributes the business’ success to the way Rollerbowl caters toward every customer.
“It’s all great, usually,” Kasler says. “We try to provide some place for people to come and enjoy themselves, … be it a family, be it a fraternity, be it a bunch of kids coming in together to have fun.”
Rollerbowl isn’t necessarily different from other bowling alleys, Kasler says; it’s just like the one in Logan, Ironton or Parkersburg. But when it’s the only set of lanes within a 30 mile radius, the business becomes an integral part to the community.
Kasler also says the diversity in customers has presented some challenges.
“The people here: it’s a huge spread,” Kasler says. “We deal with a ‘bowling marketing guru.’ He’s been in the business, and he specializes in marketing, but he has never gured out our market. What works and what doesn’t work, just because there’s such a big makeup.”
Kasler says the diversity of events in town pose additional threats.
“The lows are every summer, as I’m sure it is for many, many people,” Kasler says. “Our bowling right now is not what it was 20 years ago. People have changed. There’s a lot more to do now than there used to be, as far as recreation.”
Rollerbowl Lanes was conceived after Kasler’s father decided to transform half of his skating rink, known as Rollerkade, into a bowling alley. Rollerbowl was installed in “the low side” of the building, named because of the slight dip in elevation between the two halves of the establishment. It began with eight lanes. After some time, Rollerkade closed down completely, and Rollerbowl became the sole occupant.
Following a pattern of change, Rollerbowl is introducing a variety of nightly programs to entice new customers. One of the programs is Quartermania, a night that features an $8 cover charge and everything else, including shoes, hot dogs, sodas and game of bowling, is a quarter a piece.
“We’re trying to offer some other programs in addition to other things that are available,” Kasler says. “We’re running a bunch of specials each week and each weekend. So if a person doesn’t like to do it this way, they can do it another way. We keep trying and changing.”
Not knowing what the future of Rollerbowl will be, Kasler is trying to focus on the here and now. Eventually, Kasler would like to see his co-manager and grandson, Tyler Lutz, continue the legacy. Lutz has been helping out the family business for quite sometime, doing everything from administrative work to hand-painting the colored stripes that line Rollerbowl’s walls.
“It’s a family business. It started out just being a job, but then it became much more that,” Lutz says.
However, Lutz is currently a senior who studies online through Southern New Hampshire University, and Kasler would like him to pursue other avenues with his higher education.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Kasler says. “Tyler’s in sports management, and I would expect him to go out and get a good job. erefore I’m trying to keep [Rollerbowl] up as much as I can, so it has value to sell.”
Lutz says because it is his family’s business, his plans for after college might be derailed a bit. But for now, he’ll just keep working.
Looking into the future, Lutz has big plans for Rollerbowl. One of his big goals is to modernize Rollerbowl’s business dynamic to adapt to the changing community around it.
“I want [Rollerbowl] to go more toward a sports bar. I’m trying to do little upgrades, like we’re putting in some new TVs so we can show ghts and big games,” Lutz says.
Although Kasler is still trying to keep everything working in the meantime, Rollerbowl’s main mission is to allow people to simply have fun. If they can’t do that, Kasler says it’s a fault on Rollerbowl’s side.
Tyler Bendig, a fth-year senior, says that during the time he’s spent at Rollerbowl, he’s done exactly that.
“I really enjoyed the atmosphere,” Bendig says. “I felt like I could relax and not be worried about bowling scores.”
The welcoming atmosphere of Rollerbowl led to the establishment becoming a second home to Kasler.
“If you haven’t been, my advice would just be to come on down and try it; I promise you’ll have a lot of fun,” Kasler says.