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Renovated Penn Hills bowling alley a dream come true for 26-year-old owner | TribLIVE.com
Penn Hills

Renovated Penn Hills bowling alley a dream come true for 26-year-old owner

Tribune-Review
| Saturday, March 11, 2017 11:00 p.m
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Brian Gabriel, dad, shows his daughter Riley, 2, how to line the ball up with the pins while Mason, 4, waits his turn. Gabriel, a Penn Hills resident, is happy to see the new bowling lane open up in his neighborhood. A PHS graduate, he used to bowl at the Melody Lanes growing up and is looking forward to bringing his family to Sophie's. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune Review
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Brian Gabriel, dad, shows his son Mason, 4, how to line the ball up with the pins. Gabriel, a Penn Hills resident, is happy to see the new bowling lane open up in his neighborhood. A PHS graduate, he used to bowl at the Melody Lanes growing up and is looking forward to bringing his family to Sophie's. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune Review
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The guts of a bowling alley, something most people don't get to see, the operation of the pin setters and equipment behind the scenes. Doug Lincoln wanted to make a difference in his community and provide a place for families come together and have fun. So he decided to open Spphie's Lanes, a bowling alley on Long Road. Lincoln purchased the old Melody Lanes site, remodeled and updated the interior and equipment and opened for business the first of this year. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune Review
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The guts of a bowling alley, something most people don't get to see, the operation of the pin setters and equipment behind the scenes. Doug Lincoln wanted to make a difference in his community and provide a place for families come together and have fun. So he decided to open Spphie's Lanes, a bowling alley on Long Road. Lincoln purchased the old Melody Lanes site, remodeled and updated the interior and equipment and opened for business the first of this year. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune Review
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Doug Lincoln wanted to make a difference in his community and provide a place for families come together and have fun. So he decided to open Spphie's Lanes, a bowling alley on Long Road. Lincoln purchased the old Melody Lanes site, remodeled and updated the interior and equipment and opened for business the first of this year. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune Review

Doug Lincoln knew he wanted to own a bowling alley as early as age 14, when we was working behind the counter of Terrace Lanes in Somerset County.

Lincoln, 26, made that happen this year when he opened Sophie’s Lanes in January where Melody Lanes sat vacant for two years at 615 Long Road in Penn Hills.

“I’m a very social person and bowling centers are something I have always had a passion for,” Lincoln said. “I just followed that passion for it since I was very young.”

He is jumping into the business at a time when bowling alleys across the nation are struggling. There are an estimated 4,200 commercial bowling centers operating in the U.S., according to business management consultant firm Sandy Hansell & Associates. And according to the most recent statistics available, between 1998 and 2013, the number of bowling alleys dropped 26 percent.

“Everybody says the bowling industry is dying, but I say it’s changing … it isn’t what it was 20 years ago,” Lincoln said.

Lincoln said his goal is to bring bowling out of the 1950s and make it modern while keeping retro aspects such as the above-ground ball return.

“I love the retro, but you have to keep it modern or you aren’t going to get the young kids in here,” Lincoln said.

Since age 18, Lincoln was back and forth between Somerset and Hidden Hills, Calif., where his best friend and three goddaughters live. The entirety of his business plan, including all of his investors, originated in the Golden State.

In the summer of 2015, Lincoln began scavenging for a facility, keeping the Pittsburgh area on his radar and eventually coming across Penn Hills and its former Melody Lanes.

“I looked at demographics of the neighborhood and saw it’s a middle-class, working neighborhood, and bowling is a blue-collar sport,” Lincoln said. “I think there is definitely a demand for entertainment here so I looked into it a little further.”

The place was in horrible shape, but he had a vision.

“Most people would have gotten to the French doors and walked right out,” Lincoln said.

But after his first visit with a real estate agent, he made the leap, purchasing the building for $95,000 in 2015. The purchase was just the beginning. He bought new and used equipment from across the country with the help of loans and investors, then put nearly half a million dollars into the center.

Lincoln originally was set to open in August, at the start of the bowling league season, but the building’s poor condition delayed the start. Lincoln said he and a friend did all of the renovation except the tile work. Problems with installing new heavy equipment such as the pinsetters delayed him significantly.

The lanes feature all new flat-screen displays and new pins. The lane beds and ball returns are among the only things that weren’t replaced in the renovation.

Sophie’s Lanes serves snacks and nonalcoholic beverages. Longtime Penn Hills resident Brian Gabriel said he doesn’t mind that it is a bring-your-own-beer business.

“I live a quarter-mile away, so whether it’s me and the kids drinking a lemonade, or me and my wife coming down and drinking a beer, it’s something great for the community,” Gabriel said. “There was nothing here for the kids and nothing really here in the township, so it’s nice he opened this place up.”

Lincoln employs one person to help him behind the counter, but when it comes to maintenance and working the lanes, he does it all himself.

“If this is a success, and so far it has been, I plan on expanding on this and I plan on building more centers across the country,” Lincoln said.

Christine Manganas is a freelance writer.

Categories: Penn Hills
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