On Feb. 16, a longtime dream of Mike Kirby’s was fulfilled when he and his wife, Sarah, purchased Snowbird Lanes in Harrison. Since he was 17 years old, Kirby has wanted to own Snowbird Lanes.
“The bowling business I love,” Kirby said. “I’ve always loved bowling, but it’s also because it’s a family place. There are a lot of businesses you can have that aren’t necessarily for families, so I think that’s why I’ve always wanted a bowling business.”
Kirby is familiar with owning a business. He has a degree in business from Central Michigan University and currently has seven adult foster cares homes in Mid and Northern Michigan.
First steps for the Kirbys making Snowbird Lanes their own include remodeling the bathrooms, offering Michigan Lottery, a new scoring system, additional kitchen equipment, an outside smoking area, and the biggest investment: new bowling lanes, gutters, approach and ball returns.
The new scoring system will offer games and other features to enhance the bowling experience. Classic bowling will be offered with all the up-to-date conveniences using technology – including online reservations, scoring and Wi-Fi.
They plan to keep the business open this summer during the replacement of the wooden lanes with synthetic ones. The windows from the bar and restaurant area will allow the public to watch the progress of the new lanes installation, which is expected to take about one week.
“The advantage from the bowling alley side of things is there’s very little to no maintenance [with synthetic],” Kirby said. “They never have to be sanded or cut down. Wood is nice to bowl on for a lot of reasons, but it’s hard to maintenance and it’s not feasible to have wood lanes. Synthetic lanes hold the oil pattern so essentially if you are bowler who uses markings to make a shot, it should stay that way most of the night where wood would absorb the oil and evaporate off the wood quicker and the shot would change.”
Long-term goals include an addition for axe throwing, golf simulator and other family-friendly activities.
George Nash Jr. opened the Jackpine Lanes in September of 1964. The name was later changed in the 1970s. Vicky Rudolph and her husband, Ron, bought the business in 1996. They sold the business in 2008 and a year later Ron passed away. Ownership of the Snowbird came back to Rudolph, and she has enjoyed doing a little bit of everything around the bowling alley.
“We were here seven days a week and it feels like family here,” Rudolph said. “Mike has the energy to do things that really need to be done. I love to cook and make pizzas, but I just can’t do what I used too.
“One of my biggest concerns was that I needed someone who would take care of it and care about it.”
Rudolph believes she found that person in Kirby.
“I don’t need to wish him luck because I know it’s going to work for him,” she said.
Her future plans include finding a place to volunteer.
“I’ll probably clean my office and I’ll have to find something,” she said. “There is always somewhere that needs volunteers.”
Tidbit: 197, 120, 70, 120, 135 – those numbers are the Kirby family’s individual bowling averages. We’ll let you figure out who the scores belong to.
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