Sophie Bolich

National Bowling Chain Will Buy JB’s on 41

Bowlero, nation's biggest bowling alley operator, eyes south-side, family-owned business.

By - Sep 20th, 2022 01:23 pm
JB's on 41. Photo by Teran Powell/NNS.

JB’s on 41. Photo by Teran Powell/NNS.

JB’s on 41, a southside bowling and entertainment center, is being taken over by a national bowling corporation, according to a license application recently filed with the city.

The bowling alley, 4040 S. 27th St., originally opened as Olympic Recreation in 1957 — just one year after automatic pinsetters came onto the scene. The business has since evolved under several generations of new ownership. Current owners David Bardon and Janell Bardon took over the business in 2002.

Aside from its 35 bowling lanes, JB’s offers a bar and restaurant, sand volleyball courts, jukebox and arcade room.

Bowlero Corp. is now poised to take over the operation. A license application lists Franziska Buchholz as agent and includes Shannon Thomas, CEO and president of Bowlero and Brett Parker, executive vice president.

A representative of JB’s declined to comment at this time on the change of ownership.

Bowlero is the largest bowling center operator in the world. Nearby locations at Bowlero Wauwatosa and AMF West Lanes near the corner of 76th and Oklahoma are among the more than 300 bowling centers under Bowlero ownership throughout North America. Another AMF location in Waukesha shuttered in 2014.

The $2 billion company also owns Bowlmor Lanes and AMF. Bowlero acquired the bowling center division of Brunswick Bowling & Billiards in 2014 and the Professional Bowling Association (PBA Tour) in 2019.

Bowlero Wisconsin was granted occupancy at the 34,000-square-foot JB’s building on Sept. 9. A representative of Bowlero did not respond to a request for comment.

Bowling has a long history in Milwaukee despite some challenges. It was originally introduced by German immigrants in pre-Civil War times, eventually becoming hugely popular with blue-collar workers and housewives alike.

In 1905, Milwaukee became “bowling capital of America” when, following a major tournament, the American Bowling Congress (ABC) relocated its headquarters to the city. ABC’s departure for Texas in 2008, along with a wave of bowling alley closures in the following years, led many to believe the game was headed for the gutter.

But Bowlero’s steady growth as well as Milwaukee’s long-standing, independent alleys like Landmark Lanes, Bay View Bowl and Koz’s Mini Bowl (currently for sale), have breathed new life into what was once Milwaukeean’s favorite pastime.

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