New owner of bowling alley hopes to bring ‘wow factor’
A bowling enthusiast is bringing life back into a place that holds nostalgic value in Aiken.
Robert Dutcher purchased the Whiskey Road building that was once Aiken Bowl. Now, it will be known as Strikehouse Bowl, and he hopes to have the new business open by mid-March.
The bowling alley holds quite a bit of history, as well as fond, local memories. Built in 1953 by Tommy Crouch, the bowling alley was established for SRS employees to have a place to go and have a little fun. It became a hot spot for many residents to go, hang out and participate in some friendly competition.
The bowling alley was later owned by Crouch’s son, Billy. In 2009, the bowling alley was closed after Billy Crouch lost his battle to pancreatic cancer at the age of 56.
When walking into the bowling alley, it is still set up like it was before it closed. Different colored bowling balls line the shelves, the menu is still up behind the counter and pins are standing, ready for a strike.
Dutcher said he’s planning to refresh the place a bit and how he’s going to do that will remain a surprise until opening day.
“I need a wow factor to bring people in and keep them coming,” Dutcher said.
Dutcher added that the nostalgia of the place should attract a lot of old patrons. After the property was sold, Palmetto Realty and Land Co., LLC started receiving phone calls from curious residents who saw the “sold” sign, and Dutcher started getting emails filled with memories of first dates and good times with friends or family.
For Dutcher, who works at SRS, starting his own bowling business is a dream that has been about 15 years in the making. Originally from Reno, Nev., Dutcher practically grew up in a bowling alley. He played, worked and lived the game. His father, Barry Dutcher, was also an avid bowler and worked as a back-end mechanic.
Dutcher wanted to open a bowling alley with his father, but he passed away before they could accomplish that goal. About seven years ago, he moved to Aiken, and the opportunity to purchase the old bowling alley availed itself.
Now, his dream is becoming a reality, and Dutcher plans to make it a family-run business.
“I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet,” Dutcher said. “I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had much time to think about it.”
Dutcher hopes the bowling alley will be a big hit with residents.
“I just want to bring something back to Aiken,” Dutcher said. “I’m hoping it will be entertaining for everyone of all ages.”