617 SOUTH STATE STREET · FAIRMONT, MN · 235-5719
Dave Pederson has owned and managed one of Fairmont's most popular recreation spots for more than two decades.
Dave and his wife, Nancy, bought Fairmont's bowling center 23 years ago.
Over the years, Bowlmor Lanes has been a gathering spot for those who range from regular, avid bowlers in competitive bowling leagues to those who bowl occasionally with friends.
Besides bowling, people enjoy eating burgers, chicken strips and fries prepared there, visiting and drinking beverages in the lounge, playing arcade games, and playing on simulated golf video machines in the adjacent Tee Box room.
"I like my work because people are here to enjoy the recreation and have a good time," Pederson said. "It's a fun atmosphere. I enjoy visiting with people and seeing them have fun.
"Over the years, we and other bowling centers have tried to become more family-oriented," he said. "We have many families, for example, who hold birthday parties here."
January is usually the busiest month at the 20-lane bowling center, Pederson said.
"Things our going good, we had many customers during the holidays," he said. "2002 was a good year for us."
Bowlmor Lanes is open seven days a week, noon to midnight, from Sept. 1 to May 1.
Like most bowling centers, Bowlmor Lanes sharply reduces its operating hours in the summer when people are often involved in outdoor recreation activities. Bowlmor is only open three days a week in July.
Pederson works about 70 hours per week in the winter months. He worked five nights a week for many years until he cut back to two nights a week in recent years.
"I work here seven days a week," he said. "That's one of the few drawbacks of owning your own business. But I enjoy my work. I have a lot of leisure time in the summer, with our business hours cut back then."
Nancy Pederson does accounting, record keeping and other office work for the business. She and Dave have two full-time employees and several part-time workers.
There is bowling league activity every night except on Saturday. Friday and Saturday often have the largest numbers of people "open bowling," Dave said.
League bowling teams often begin in early September and usually end in the third week of April.
An increasing proportion of Bowlmor's customers are open bowling, he said.
"League bowling has sharply declined across the country compared to many years ago," Dave said.
"When we got into this business more than 20 years ago, about 80 percent of the bowling business in the country was league bowling and open bowling was about 20 percent," he said. "But information last year shows that about 55 percent of the nation's bowling business comes from open bowling and 45 percent comes from league bowling. Our situation here is similar to the national trend.
"League bowling peaked in about 1980 and has been declining in numbers ever since," he said. "One of the reasons is that many people don't like to commit to bowling on the same night for 32 weeks, like they used to. There isn't the commitment like there used to be. People also have more recreation options now. "
Another trend is the closing of numerous small bowling centers in recent years, said the Lamberton native.
"Many bowling centers with four, six and eight lanes have closed across the country," he said. "The only other bowling centers around here are in Armstrong and Winnebago. The Bowlmor draws many out-of-town people, some of that is due to their towns no longer having bowling centers."
Bowlmor Lanes has undergone many upgrades to its interior and equipment since 1992, said the former U.S. Marine.
Its computerized equipment includes automatic scoring machines for bowlers and business record keeping for the Pederson's office. Bowlmor's Web site allows league bowlers to check scores at home