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Iconic community bowling alley blends retro charm and tech advances under new owners

Iconic community bowling alley blends retro charm and tech advances under new owners


Buckhannon Lanes had been a recreational fixture in Upshur County for 56 years. Now teens, friends and family can continue to have a ball in the same spot, updated under new owners as Woody’s Bowling Center.

Opened in 1962 by the Archer family, the bowling business was purchased by the Archer sisters and their husbands in 1974. Upshur County natives Cemantha and her husband Ron Woody purchased the second-generation family-owned bowling alley in 2018.

The couple had a vision of what they wanted to achieve. They’re getting it done, with a little coaching from the West Virginia Small Business Development Center and investment from BCBank.

Nostalgia and modern strike a balance

Longtime patrons of the former Buckhannon Lanes will recognize the bar stools, countertops and list of snacks on the bar menu. A cabinet near the entrance is filled with keepsakes and memorabilia retrieved from storage. When local recreation center Valley Worlds of Fun closed, Cemantha and Ron bought bowling ball racks, tables and booths.

The new Bowling Center integrates the retro style with modern flair and high technology. The new balls and pins glow in the dark, letting players bowl by the glow under black lights. Cemantha and Ron installed the high-tech Brunswick Sync system that keeps track of each player’s score and displays the results on an overhead monitor in each lane.

The idea that inspired the couple to get into business sprang from the same spirit that made Buckhannon Lanes a popular gathering spot for decades: a sense of community.

“I wanted to do something for the community,” she said. “I wanted to give families and kids something fun to look forward to and put some life back into the community.”

Business gets rolling

It was fun and not business that first made Cemantha and Ron regulars at Buckhannon Lanes, bowling with friends and chatting with the owners. They enjoyed the game, the company and the community spirit and wanted to see it go on.

Gradually the couple were drawn to the idea of buying the business. Although the bowling lane wasn’t officially for sale, the Woodys proposed purchasing it. Their timing was good as the owners’ families had been talking about retiring from the bowling business.

The next step was to get the ball rolling on setting up the business. A friend pointed Cemantha to the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (WV SBDC).

She met with WV SBDC Business Coach Susannah Higgins. The WV SBDC has a statewide network of business coaches who have professional certifications in areas such as technology, finance, management and marketing.

“Cemantha said she had an idea, that she wanted to bring the bowling center back to life here in Buckhannon,” said Susannah. “We talked through everything she needed to do; the business plan, working through the financial projections, the fact that we needed to find a very strong lender that would be in her corner, to help them do whatever they need to do to help them make their dream come true.”

“I would not have done it on my own,” Cemantha said. “I had no idea where to begin, with the business plan and the pages and pages of things you have to fill out. Susie was amazing, with her knowledge of the ins and outs of all that.”

Her business coach was able to help them with access to capital. The WV SBDC does not award loans or grants, but the program does help entrepreneurs find capital resources and prepare financial packets.

Susannah connected Cemantha with the community BCBank in Buckhannon. The bank was founded in Barbour County the 1960s as a local community-minded financial institution. Over the years, the bank has expanded into more communities in North Central West Virginia.

“I talked to Susie about it and sat down with Cemantha and Ron,” said Sean Long, Vice President/Loan Officer with BCBank. “I had frequented Buckhannon Lanes as a child. Now as an adult, I had a chance to help them bring the place back to life. It was a unique opportunity to invest in our local community.”

The renovated Woody’s Bowling Center is on 22 Vicksburg Road, Buckhannon. The center’s summer hours are Sunday through Thursday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. For details and promotions, visit the Woody’s Bowling Center Facebook page.

Related social media hashtag: #wvsbdc.

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