Andy Propst grew up bowling and playing arcade games at Boise’s Emerald Lanes, though back then it was called Timber Lanes.
That’s part of why the 38-year-old businessman sounds almost giddy when he talks about his latest venture: Meridian Lanes.
“I’m a real estate guy. I’ve always been into real estate,” said Propst, who last year sold the local Park Place Property Management and launched a national property management company, HomeRiver Group. “This came along, and I thought: What a cool opportunity.”
Propst bought the bowling alley in Downtown Meridian that he used to pass on his way home from work every day. Meridian Lanes was opened by Quintieri family, which expanded it significantly over nearly six decades of ownership.
“My wife thinks I’m crazy, just like everyone else does,” Propst said of the acquisition. He believes the “retro feel of bowling” is coming back — and it’s fun for families of all backgrounds and incomes.
“Even a crappy bowler, you get a strike, it feels good,” Propst said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have in the bank, you’re going to be fist pumping.”
The number of bowling alleys in the U.S. peaked at 12,000 in the 1960s but by 2013 there were fewer than 4,000, according to USA Today.
Boise lost 20th Century Lanes earlier this year after its lease wasn’t renewed. There are several other bowling alleys in the Treasure Valley, including Emerald Lanes, Westy’s Garden Lanes and Nampa Bowl. Entertainment centers such as Big Al’s and Pinz Bowling Center at Wahooz offer modern bowling lanes.
Propst isn’t planning any big changes at Meridian Lanes — just some upgrades and additions to enhance the experience — and he’s not quitting his day job as CEO of HomeRiver Group.
The carpet was recently replaced, and roof repairs are planned. Regulars will soon notice new graphics on the lanes, an updated scoring system and new TV screens. The menu for the snack bar will be expanded.
“We’ve got to get better equipment in there so we can handle more orders, faster,” Propst said.
Meridian Lanes has more than 20 leagues (men’s, women’s, mixed, youth and more), which have great names like the Royal Seniors, Leftovers and Sunday Gamblers. It’s also a place where people have birthday parties and office parties, and Propst wants to keep growing that aspect of the business.
He inked the deal about a week ago — and took his family bowling the next day.
“We had a breakfast burrito and knocked down some pins,” he said. His parents, both in their early 80s, bowled alongside his two kids, 10 and 6.
He loves the interactive, multi-generational aspect of the bowling alley, which started with eight lanes and now has 32 lanes at the 3-acre site. The bowling alley also offers arcade games, dart boards, karaoke and a bar, Strikers Lounge.
“We want to cater to the people who want to have great family fun that’s engaging,” he said. “Kids today, all they do is stare at their tablets.”
Propst jokes that he is “the world’s worst bowler.” But there’s a dark reason for why his hands hurt when he bowls, though he doesn’t dwell on it.
In 1998, when he was an LDS missionary in Russia, he and fellow missionary Travis Tuttle were kidnapped and held for ransom. During five days of captivity, they were beaten with bats. A 2013 film called “The Saratov Approach” chronicled that ordeal.
“I’m a lousy bowler but I want to make an amazing bowling experience,” he said.