WATERLOO, Iowa --- After 40 years of strikes, longtime local bowling proprietor Bruce Strom is looking at a possible split.
Strom, who is nearing his 69th birthday, is selling Maple Lanes, 2608 University Ave., to a group of other veterans of the Cedar Valley bowling circuit.
The deal for an undisclosed amount, is scheduled to close in the first week of January, according to Strom and the new owners --- Fran Eighme and his son Rich, who own Fran's Pro Shop in Waterloo; Zach Beschorner, a broker with Fusion Realtors in Waterloo; and Andy Buelow, a former general manager with Barmuda Cos.
Strom said he also is pondering selling his Valley Park Lanes in Cedar Falls, although he hasn't yet found a buyer.
"It's been an enjoyable business to be in, and I've had some great people helping me," Strom said.
He also said it was time to slow down a bit.
"It's an all-encompassing activity," he said. "We're open seven days a week basically 8 (a.m.) to midnight, and you devote most of your waking hours to it. Forty years is a long time to be doing that; I'm looking forward to a slower pace."
But, he said, he didn't want to sell to just any buyer, and the right group came along.
For one thing, he said, they all know the game.
"All four are accomplished bowlers; as a sport it's very important to them, and they all have a smattering of hospitality experience, what it takes to make a hospitality enterprise work," Strom said. "That's really what a bowling center is."
Strom's father, Larry, built Maple Lanes in 1958. Bruce Strom, who had been a financial analyst for Ford Motor Co. in Detroit for several years after college, wanted to come back to the Cedar Valley.
"You're pretty far removed from the real world as a financial analyst; you think you're making money for Ford Motor Co., but in reality they make money by selling cars and trucks," Strom said. "The opportunity was there to get involved in the family bowling business. I had spent five years with Ford and had a most enjoyable career. I was ready to come back to the Cedar Valley and enjoy the area and find out what the bowling business was about."
That was in 1972.
Now, he said, it's time to slow down.
"I'm going to the Insight Bowl, and I'll get to see both my alma maters play each other, so I guess I can't lose," said Strom, who earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Iowa and a master's in business administration at the University of Oklahoma.
The new owners plan to run Maple Lanes, which employs 30 workers, in much same way Strom did, said Rich Eighme, who, at one time, held a regional professional bowlers card and placed 15th in his first pro tournament before opting not to pursue a pro bowling career any further.
"When this kind of fell in our laps about two months ago, I thought it was a prank call," said Eighme, who has sold bowling equipment in various capacities, in addition to his work at his family's pro shop, for a number of years. "Then, the more we investigated and found out Bruce wanted to retire and enjoy his remaining years, we had to give it serious thought. I thought, with all my knowledge, it would be something we'd be interested in. We've come full circle."
The Eighmes will move their pro shop to Maple Lanes from its current location next door to Cadillac Lanes in Waterloo, although they hope to maintain a "satellite" shop at the old location, Eighme said.