New Owner For Duckpin Lanes

Business Student Takes Over Mount Jackson Bowling Alley

Posted: May 10, 2013

Scott Asbell, 21, a rising senior at James Madison University, inspects the pinsetter equipment at Shenandoah Bowling Lanes that was installed in 1958. Asbell, a business management major, decided to take the leap into the business world by buying the 65-year-old Mount Jackson landmark, one of only a half-dozen or so remaining duckpin alleys in Virginia. (Photos by Kaitlin Mayhew / DN-R)
Duckpin bowling lanes are the same as standard alleys, but the game uses a smaller, 3-pound ball, and smaller pins.
MOUNT JACKSON — The new owner of Shenandoah Bowling Lanes hopes to jump-start the popularity of the small-town mainstay.
Scott Asbell, 21, a rising senior at James Madison University, purchased the duckpin bowling alley in April.
“I’ve always known I wanted to own my own small business,” said Asbell, a business management major from Suffolk. “I wanted something that was hands-on. I knew I didn’t want to be at a desk all day.”
Asbell was first introduced to Shenandoah County while working as a Young Life leader at Stonewall Jackson High School in New Market and fell in love with the area.
As college graduation began to loom, Asbell said he frequently joked that after graduating, “I’m just going to move up to Mount Jackson and buy the bowling alley.”
“It was a joke,” he said, until, during a Young Life party held at the site, he noticed the for-sale sign.
“I stayed and talked to them about it and then ended up deciding to buy it,” he said.
Asbell purchased the business for $18,000 with a loan from First Bank in Mount Jackson.
Shenandoah Bowling Lanes has been in business at the same Mount Jackson location since 1948. The small alley, located at 5904 Main St., still has a decidedly 1950s feel to it with manual projectors used to tally game scores and vintage food signs adorning the walls.
The look, said Asbell, was one of the aspects he wanted to keep.
The equipment that lifts and sets the pins was installed in 1958 and isn’t manufactured anywhere today.
While talking to Asbell, the gears or switches in the machinery would jam every so often, causing him to walk down the lane and disappear behind the back wall to set things straight.
Fixing and maintaining such equipment was new for Asbell when he purchased the alley, though he said experience as a bicycle mechanic in high school helped some.
“In March, I basically came up and shadowed the old owners for a while,” he said.
Asbell does have plans to draw in some new, possibly younger clientele.
“We don’t have a lot of young people in here, which is not typical for bowling alleys,” he said.
Upon purchasing the alley, Asbell painted, designed a new logo, revamped the Facebook page and installed lights for potential night bowling parties. He also is considering installing some pinball machines and setting up a projector screen to play sports games.
“That way you could come with friends and bowl during the commercials,” he said.
He said that business in the alley is divided pretty equally among leagues, private parties and open bowling. Shenandoah Bowling Lanes offers some of the cheapest bowling in the region at $3.50 per game and $2.50 for shoes, and is one of only about six remaining duckpin alleys in the state.
Duckpin bowling features the same length lanes as in standard alleys, but a smaller, 3-pound ball, and smaller pins.
Asbell has two employees, friends from JMU, helping him out for the summer.
Owning the alley has already come in handy for Asbell in his studies.
“I took an entrepreneurship class and a lot of stuff [we studied] paralleled with what I was [encountering] here,” he said.
After graduation, Asbell said he plans to move up to Mount Jackson and to stay in the area for the foreseeable future.
More information about Shenandoah Bowling Lanes can be found on Facebook or by calling (540) 477-2341.
Contact Kaitlin Mayhew at 574-6290 or

NDN Video News