The summer season has wrapped up and that means bowling season is underway in the Buffalo area.
For Braymiller’s Lanes, 39 Buffalo St. in Hamburg, it means the celebration of its 75th year in business. Third-generation owner Howie Braymiller has kept up on the latest technology and finds new ways to attract customers at the bowling alley his grandfather Howard created.
While Howie now runs the alleys where he grew up, his father (also named Howard) still comes in everyday to check on things as they carry on the family tradition. Technology may have changed over the years, but one thing hasn’t: beer and bowling still go hand in hand.
Question: So your grandfather opened the bowling alley back in 1942. How did that come to be?
Braymiller: It was a Studebaker dealership before it was a bowling alley. There was a gas pump on the curb. They put new streets in two years ago. The gas tank was still underground. It stopped construction for two days and they had to seal it with concrete.
Q: Buffalo was home to many large bowling alleys. Do you know why Braymiller’s only has eight lanes?
A: You had to get a man to work every lane to set pins so you were limited by the number of workers you could get. That’s why it’s small. It’s a throwback. Then, in 1953, when they came out with fully automated machines, you could build much larger bowling alleys.
In 1953, we had fully automated machines and put in all new lanes and it took forever because they built it board by board. We just replaced them like two years ago with new synthetic lanes.
Q: Since you own a bowling alley, are there good bowlers in your family?
A: My grandfather’s wife died giving birth to my Uncle Lee. He was 18 and they were farmers, and fathers didn’t raise kids by themselves back then. So he basically took him to the bowling alley every day. He became one of the top five bowlers in the world in the 1950s because he lived at the bowling alley.
Q: Bowling and beer always seem to go hand in hand. Is that still the case?
A: Oh yeah. Pabst is like our best seller on draft. We sell a ton of it and it’s super cheap - $2 for a 16-ounce pint and people love it. We sell a lot of premium beer, too, so people seem to like that. We sell a lot of pitchers, especially with the college kids. We have college night on Thursday with half-price bowling and half-price beer. It’s usually pretty busy.
This year we added Master’s Barbecue so you can eat barbecue while you’re bowling - it’s a great combination with the beer and everything!
Q: Do you hope to carry on your family tradition for years to come?
A: I really hope so. We’re third generation and a lot of businesses don’t really make it that far. I don’t want people to be like "Howie Jr. took over and it went right down the toilet!" We try! Our bar is a lot busier now ever since they redid Hamburg with the new improvements and traffic circles.
Now a lot of people come into the bar, and then if you want to bowl, you can bowl and play darts or shoot pool or whatever.
Q: Are you busiest over the winter?
A: Winter is definitely our busy time - all winter long. Hamburg High School has bowled here for the past seven years. Now we have a lot of younger kids bowling with the bumper bowling, and we have a new ramp so kids as young as 2 or 3 can bowl with their parents.
We do tons of birthday parties – it’s awesome because it keeps the kids entertained and you don’t have to mess up your house.
Q: How are you upgrading equipment to keep up with modern bowling?
A: We have all new computers, ball returns and everything this year and we’re still doing more. I wish my grandpa could see it like this. He wouldn’t believe it! They used to change pins by hand and now it tells you the miles per hour for your bowling ball!