Bowlero Lanes to return to mid-century glory

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
Royal Oak's Bowlero Lanes will reopen this fall under new ownership and a 1970s vintage look.

New owners have taken over longstanding Royal Oak bowling alley Bowlero Lanes and Lounge, and plan to breathe new life into the dated attraction while keeping the mid-century charm in tact. 

One of the partners knows a thing or two about bowling alleys, too. Dave Zainea is an owner of the Majestic Detroit and the Garden Bowl, one of the country's oldest bowling alleys. He's teamed up with Royal Oak lawyer Dean Elliott and his wife Kelly Elliott, who has a flair for stylish vintage decor. 

The team purchased Bowlero from Gerald and Bridgitte Imhoff, who owned the bowling alley for the past several decades. 

Kelly Elliott says their plan is to keep Bowlero, which closed last month, as a bowling alley, but make updates like fixing the broken pin-setters and adding games like vintage pinball. They also want to offer live entertainment in the 2,000-square-foot bar area. 

Royal Oak's Bowlero Lounge will reopen with a vintage 1970s look in November under new ownership.

"We want people to know that we're going to keep it a bowling alley, a lot of people were worried it was going to be closed," said Elliott. "Because a lot of bowling alleys, especially in Detroit and all over Michigan, have been closing. There's a lot of bowlers that are losing their spots where they're meeting up with friends and getting involved with leagues."

Elliott, who is a school psychologist, says they plan to keep league play, and also offer programming for special-needs children. She wants Bowlero to become a Certified Autism Center; and says it would be the first bowling alley with such a certification. She plans for Bowlero to have designated times when the lights are lower, the music is different and they'll have noise-canceling headphones on hand. 

“We’re going to be really disability-friendly,” she said. “We want to reach out to families and businesses and organizations that work with people with disabilities, not just autism.” 

This is a way for Elliott to fold her area of expertise into the business. Her husband Dean's background will also come in handy at Bowlero. He's a lawyer who has represented a lot of small business in the local food and beverage industry. He also ran a punk bar in the early 1990s, the Falcon Club in Hamtramck. 

Bowlero Lanes will reopen this fall under new ownership.

Kelly Elliott is looking forward to cleaning up and accelerating the Bowlero's vintage look, and has started an Instagram account to keep up with the progress (@bowlero.lanes.and.lounge). The lanes opened in the early 1960s, and while there was a remodel in the 1980s, much of the mid-century look is there and she wants to preserve it while pushing toward a 1970s rumpus-room theme. "Think Pan Am airport lounge,circa 1970," she said. 

Renovations start Monday, and when it's finished Elliott says she wants visitors to "feel like they stepped back in a time machine." 

"We're going to update," she said. "It's a little bit tired and a little anemic. We're going to add a lot of color and a lot of energy." 

Bowlero is at 4209 Coolidge in Royal Oak. Elliott says they're shooting for a November relaunch.

Twitter: @melodybaetens