Brian Fakler, owner and manager of Winona Bowl in Winona, Minn., is reflected in a blind-spot mirror while collecting coins from a candy machine Dec. 29. Fakler said since purchasing the bowling alley 22 years ago, the popularity of the sport has waned, possibly due to social dynamics changing through the internet and cell phones. (Photo by Kate Carlson/Winona360)
Check repair on leaky ceiling. Collect change from soda and candy machines. Pay food delivery man. Continuously fix scoring machines when errors arise.
Brian Fakler has a long to-do list, and as manager and owner of Winona Bowl in Winona, Minn., he must take on the tasks seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
"I'm here every day," said Fakler, while munching on a quick lunch of McDonald's chicken nuggets and fries in the Winona Bowl's lounge with bartender and employee of 14 years Krystal Dorman, around 12:30 p.m., Dec. 29.
As the bowling alley opened its doors Wednesday at 1 p.m., Fakler bustled from one job to another. Two young children hurried through the doors; grandparents following closely behind.
"We'd like to leave these two boys here for a few hours," joked the grandmother as the group removed their jackets and discussed their shoe sizes.
"Honestly, you'd be surprised how often that happens," said Fakler, clearly remembering some not-so-entertaining days at the Winona Bowl. "Working with the public for as long as I have, I've seen everything."
Fakler has owned the bowling alley for 22 years, and has seen some incredible changes throughout the decades.
"I've watched leagues go from nothing, to something, to nothing again," he recalled. "We updated our wood lanes to synthetic laminate overlay to save money on not having to maintain or resurface the wood lanes. We added cosmic lights and a larger sound system about 10 years ago, and a kitchen about eight years ago."
Despite the upgrades and changes, the sport of bowling has seemed to take a recent backseat to more high-tech endeavors.
"The way people socialize these days has changed so much," said Fakler. "Everyone talks over Facebook and through texts--people don't even like to sit together anymore."
According to Fakler, adult league numbers have dwindled, yet youth and teen leagues have continued to rise across the nation, giving bowling enthusiasts like Fakler hope for a new wave of excited customers.
"I like all the people you meet, but most of all, it's a social event," he said.
The two children giggled as their brightly colored balls rolled down the lanes. Fakler turned for a moment, smiled, then returned to his list.
Winona Bowl is hosting a New Year's Eve Party Dec. 31 beginning at 7 p.m. and continuing through Jan. 1 at 1 a.m. $40 all you can drink and bowl, including party favors, snacks and champagne. Reservations required. Call (507) 452-6441.