Fowling offers fun for all
With its amazing diversity, rock 'n' roll roots and walkable streets, Hamtramck is a distinctive town. Adding to the city's uniqueness is the newly opened, 34,000-square-foot Fowling Warehouse.
Built in 1920 as a CV joint factory, the Fowling Warehouse is a place for socializing, drinking, seeing live music and fowling: throwing footballs at bowling pins.
Fowling was invented by Ferndale's Chris Hutt and a group of tailgating friends more than a decade ago. Fowling uses 20 regulation-size bowling pins, which are knocked down by throwing a regulation-size football. The game was born after a failed attempt at bowling in a tailgating lot.
"There's a big group of like 35 of us that go to the Indy 500 each year ... and we're always in the same lot, same spot and all our neighbors are the same people from other states," explains Hutt, 46, who owns the Fowling Warehouse with his wife Noni Hutt. "For a long time we tried to have a project every year to impress our (tailgating) neighbors. We built Plinko one year, we have a tiki bar we still use, 40 people can belly up to it. One year we came up with the idea of making a bowling alley."
Hutt said the bowling alleys didn't work out well, so they put the bowling balls away but left the pins. Later that weekend, a few guys were tossing a football around and one smashed into the pins.
"That was our 'eureka moment,' " says Hutt. It was then, more than 10 years ago, that fowling was born. Hutt went on to host fowling around town, and they continued to play each year during the Indy 500 tailgating, but the Hamtramck locale is the first official and permanent fowling facility, complete with a liquor license and regular hours.
"I just won this game, thank you," says Julie Phenis of Detroit, while visiting the Fowling Warehouse recently with her boyfriend and friends. "It's shockingly exciting. It's a good arm workout and it's really fun to play with your friends."
"It's a good addition to the social scene here in Detroit," she adds.
Hutt says that strength and gender don't matter when fowling. It's a sport that all ages and skill sets can excel at and enjoy. In fact, all you need to do is get a bonk — knocking down only the pin in the fifth position on your first throw — and you win the game.
"If you throw bonk, we let you honk your bonk," says Hutt, pointing to a cluster of brass horns attached to the front of the bar near the ceiling. "It's a Great Lakes freighter horn. I would guarantee if Mike Ilitch heard it, he'd be very jealous. Joe Louis Arena would love to have this horn. It's loud."
It is loud. It's window-rattling loud. Hutt says they've had a bonk or two nearly every day since opening.
"This is amazing, unbelievable," says Bernie Wujck, visiting recently from Pittsburgh. He and his wife Janet are part of Hutt's Indy 500 tailgating crew and were present on that fateful day fowling was invented. Wujck points out that he is the 2006 Indy Fowling champion. "I need to open a bar like this in Pittsburgh in one of the empty steel mills."
"I had to come see the finished product," says Neil Mandt, a longtime friend of Hutt's who also dropped by the warehouse from Los Angeles, where he works as a television and movie producer. "It's great to see someone's passion realized."
3901 Christopher, Hamtramck
Call: (313) 264-1288
Hours: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday, noon-2 a.m. Saturday and noon-10 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: $10 per person for open fowling. Lane reservations accepted for groups of up to 20 people, $120 per lane for two hours.
Credit cards: All major
Food: No food service, but customers are welcome to bring their own.
Liquor: Full bar
Music: Hutt says he hopes to host live music once a week on a 400-square-foot stage, which is surrounded by spindle-style tables and bar stools. Bands interested in performing can contact him through the Fowling Warehouse Facebook page.
Ages: Families with children allowed noon-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; otherwise, adults only.
Capacity: 375, up to 1,000 for special events
Parking: Large gated lot.
Wheelchair access: No barriers