You might say John Becker took the long way around to running a bowling alley in East Aurora.
These days, Becker is running Mister’s Bar and Lanes, 206 Main St., East Aurora, with Arthur “Artie” Petch, his cousin.
They took over the place, formerly 11th Frame, a couple of weeks ago. It’s about 10 miles from where he grew up, in the North Java-Strykersville area. The Attica High School, Class of 1996 graduate went to work for Innovative Concepts in Entertainment, the Clarence bubble hockey game makers, where he was service manager for six years.
A company he’d brushed shoulders with at a convention called, and Becker ended up in the Middle East, overseeing the installation of indoor amusement parks for a Dubai-based company for 14 years.
In Kuwait, Qatar, Dubai and Europe, he was responsible for projects up to a 100,000-square-foot space big enough for its own roller coaster. “Obviously it was tough when you're actually putting them in,” Becker said. “But once you go to open, you get to ride the roller coaster 200 times in a row if you want to.”
He and his wife Susanne decided to return to Western New York. After hearing the bowling alley was for sale, they decided to “kind of put our money where my mouth used to be,” he said.
Becker and Petch decided to remove half of the lanes, leaving eight, and turned the wood decks into tables. There’s still plenty of space for the bowling leagues, which are still going strong, Becker said.
There’s more seating inside and out, and expanded bar, and a plans for a broader restaurant menu. At present, in a soft-opening phase, it’s not much beyond pizza and chicken fingers, said Becker.
He was too modest. So far it offers housemade deep fried garlic mashed potato balls, wedge salads, banana pepper bisque, and burgers like the Fra Diavolo, topped with a stuffed banana pepper, spicy sauce and ricotta cheese.
As befitting his professional roots, there are also more coin-operated games, including air hockey, pool tables, pinball machines, basketball hoops and skee ball.
At about 12,000 square feet, Mister’s is about one-eighth the size of the biggest places he once built. But there’s nothing tiny about his hopes for making a place the community will enjoy.
“This was actually kind of a small project,” he said, “but it was very fulfilling because it's in your hometown, and it's yours.”
Hours: 2 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday. Phone: 714-9191.
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