Target Stores Takes Unique Approach In Memorializing Bowling Center

by Dave Williams

An innovative display of old red bowling balls adorns a walkway inside the store. Note the old B-O-W-L letters from an outside sign that are now proudly displayed inside the store. Impressive.

So many times we have all been upset with the closing of a particular bowling location because of all the fond memories that are instilled within our minds. We remember all the happy times…  bowling a big score, having fun with friends, or just hanging out because there was nowhere else to go! But then one of those evil big retail chains comes along and decides that the world will not continue unless there is just one more Walmart, Home Depot, or Target Store right on the spot of your favorite bowling center.

Petitions are developed and signatures are obtained that are presented to local government officials, but to no avail. The extra tax revenue that will be derived from the retail chains are too attractive to the politicians, and all of those “feel good” memories and recreational advantages of a bowling facility are meaningless. Many also blame the “greedy” proprietor for selling out to the highest bidder, and electing instead to retire and move to Florida or Arizona.

However, if you look at the situation through the eyes of the retail chain, or the proprietor; their decision is as logical as your choice (assuming that money was not a concern) between buying a new Lamborghini or hanging on to your used car for a few more years. It all made sense to me last week, as I continued studying the case of Pro 300 Lanes, a bowling center in Portland, Oregon, that was sold by AMF to Target Stores in 2017.

Best nostalgia of all are the former bowling lanes suspended above the checkout counter! Now that’s creative!!

My relationship with the Pro 300 Lanes location goes back to 1979, when AMF first sent me to Portland to drum up some new league business for their locations in the northwest, through a bowling party promotion that had provided successful returns for me in Southern California and Las Vegas. Under the precepts of the program, groups of individuals from a particular company or organization would be invited to participate in a free bowling party, and then it was my job to try and convince them to continue in a short introductory league program.

Pro 300 Lanes was perhaps the most difficult of all the northwest locations because it was in need of repair, and it was also considered an inner-city location; while all of the other bowling properties were in the suburbs and free from traffic congestion and all of the other difficulties associated with city life. Nonetheless, I began promoting the bowling party concept among many nearby organizations, and booked a couple of parties. My first big hit was with Safeway Stores, a supermarket chain that still exists today.

All of the Safeway store managers kept telling me that I needed to get in touch with Phyllis (Crozier) at the warehouse dispatch, and that she would be the one that could get this together. When I finally met Phyllis and presented her with the bowling party idea, she was cautiously optimistic… and, she was a bowler! I showed her a sample party flyer and we scheduled a date in August, with the hope of beginning a new bowling club with all of the Safeway Stores in September.

The outside PARKING sign that once directed bowlers to the underground parking garage is now adjacent to elevators inside the store that direct customers to the parking area below the store. Clever.

At about this same time AMF was working on some major renovation projects for Pro 300 Lanes. One of the most critical items was a new roof, which had been leaking the previous  year in the concourse area, where the flat roof and dome come together. A new process was being attempted that would provide a gentle slope from the dome to the flat roof and prevent the water from puddling up at the lower edge of the dome. For those of you that are familiar with the Pacific Northwest, you know that it’s virtually impossible to encounter rain during the months of June, July and August, so the roof repairs were underway.

As we approached the date for the bowling party, I kept in close touch with Phyllis and she assured me that all of the materials had gone out to the 18 Safeway Stores in the area via the delivery truck drivers. She said that a notice had been placed by the time clock at every location and that she was expecting a good turnout. Unfortunately there was no way to gauge the response, because providing a sign up sheet at every store would have been cumbersome for Mrs. Crozier.

On the night of the party, the expectations of Phyllis were met, and we had more than 200 participants at the 36 lane center. Without knowing exactly what to expect, we ran out of snacks for the party, but the beer and wine sampling continued! (This was before the age of political correctness and frivolous lawsuits, so complimentary beer and wine was permitted).

While all of this was going on, it began to rain — in August! Consequently, the concourse resembled an indoor shower because of the exposed roof… and the water was flowing freely! But we all survived, and in spite of the indoor rain event, we formulated an 18 team Safeway Stores Bowling Club the next week!

This is just one of many stories that I have about my time in Portland, and at Pro 300 Lanes… but one of my favorites! The stories from many Portlanders about Pro 300 Lanes must have weighed heavily into the decision by Target Stores to retain the facility, complete with underground parking — a definite plus in this “waterlogged” city. But Target carried the commitment a step further by retaining portions of Pro 300 Lanes bowling memorabilia throughout the new Target Stores location. In the process they won the respect of many in the Portland community, and a couple of design awards in the process.

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Images provided courtesy of Target