Calling All Keglers

By Holly Kelsey-Henry

Superior Lanes Nears Completion of an Expansive Renovation That Provides an Even Better Bowling Experience

Bowling has a long and rich history, and today, it’s one of the most popular sports in the world. According to the Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame, the sport gained popularity when British anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie discovered a collection of objects in a grave in Egypt in the 1930s that appeared to be used for a crude form of bowling.

Ever since, the sport has drawn Friday night novices, serious Saturday league players and those looking for family fun any day of the week.

The game is also alive and well in its most modern form at Superior Lanes, and new owner Jeff McCaffrey is excited to carry on its storied tradition. 

Superior Lanes – which was formerly known as Landmark Lanes – has been undergoing extensive renovations with a focus on providing families and youth abundant and safe recreational opportunities, and McCaffrey and his team are eyeing to bowl a 300 for the community.

Since he’s an enthusiastic, yet self-proclaimed “really terrible bowler,” ask him why on earth he bought an entire bowling business, and McCaffrey will tell you it was an emotional decision.

“People keep asking me that, and honestly, I’m asking myself that sometimes,” he said. “For about 10 years, our bowling team played in Duluth. And then, since most of us were from Superior, we moved over to Superior. We joined the league here and just enjoyed ourselves on Friday nights. We honestly had so much fun we started joking about the idea that one of us should buy the building. Next thing you know, I was genuinely interested. I got to know the owners and we came up with a deal. There is a great group of core bowlers here, and I just knew we could make some improvements and carry on the great tradition of the previous owners.”

The business, located at 1914 Broadway St. in Superior, was originally established in 1976 as Zowin’s, was then purchased by the Mattizinskis around 1980, and later became the property of Carl Mencel.

After 25 years in the Mencel family, Landmark Lanes was purchased by Joy Enterprises LLC earlier this year, of which McCaffrey is the majority owner. He owns the building under the enterprise and operates it along with two friends under the name Superior Bowling Center LLC.

“I’m the majority owner, but I sure have not done this alone,” McCaffrey noted.

May 21 was the last night Landmark Lanes was open under the leadership of co-owners Carl and Diane Mencel, and lots of friends and customers gathered to wish them well and welcome the new owners.

“We heard so many people say what an impact we had on them or their children,” Diane Mencel said. “Carl and I talked about our memories from those 25 years, and we both agreed that what the community did for us – the memories are priceless. We know the new owner, Jeff, will continue to help families make good memories.”

Part of generating those good memories started for McCaffrey almost immediately – but so did building a new roof as well as installing new windows and doors.

“We joined the league here and just enjoyed ourselves on Friday nights. We honestly had so much fun we started joking … that one of us should buy the building. Next thing you know, I was
genuinely interested.”
– Superior Lanes Owner Jeff McCaffrey

Beginning in June of this year, the building began undergoing extensive renovations, including completely tearing off and replacing the 15,000-square-foot roof, gutting the interior walls down to the original block, insulating with spray foam to make the building more energy efficient, sheetrocking, adding windows and replacing all entry doors.

“We also got rid of all fluorescent lights and replaced it with [energy efficient] LED lighting, replaced the HVAC unit, and we are invested in an overhaul of the pin-setting machines with new parts,” McCaffrey added. “And we are rebuilding the bar, along with many updates to bar equipment, and almost all new refrigeration equipment. It’s a big job, especially during the pandemic, but one that is rewarding and seems to be appreciated by the customers.”

McCaffrey noted that the business used local contractors whenever possible, and since he is also the owner of J3 Insurance in Duluth, he was also mindful of using his own clients whenever he could. 

Today, Superior Lanes employs six staff members, five of whom are part-time and one who is full-time. The positions include bartenders, servers and pin-chasers in addition to mechanical and maintenance staff.    

“We are most certainly looking to add several additional positions as we slowly open up more and grow,” said McCaffrey. “I hired a young guy from the high school team and it’s his first job. So his first paycheck will be from the bowling alley, and that’s exciting. I want a place for kids to come on a Saturday and feel safe and enjoy themselves. To make this all happen, Carl, the previous owner, has been wonderful, and my partners have been fantastic.”

While the property has always served the community as a 12-lane bowling center, McCaffrey and his team have upped the game in the lounge area of the facility with many updates. The lounge offers pizza and appetizers such as French fries, onion rings and cheese curds, along with alcoholic drinks and sodas.

Superior Lanes offers several league opportunities, many of which have carried over from Landmark Lanes. The leagues run Monday through Saturday, and while the facility is still undergoing some renovations, the league season is already off to a roaring start. There is, of course, open bowling for the general public as well.

“Carl [Mencel] and I talked about our memories from those 25 years, and … what the community did for us – the memories are priceless. We know the new owner, Jeff, will continue to help families make good memories.”
– Former Co-owner Diane Mencel

Along the way, McCaffrey has found himself and his business embraced by the Superior community, and he’s excited about the future of Superior Lanes.

“We are probably most proud to keep bowling alive in Superior and in this end of town,” McCaffrey said. “I’ve always loved the building and wanted to give it some new life and have a fun place for kids to hang out, bowl and even maybe have their first job. Superior has some great bowlers, and we can hopefully provide them an option on this side of the bridge for many more years to come. We hope to do more down the line as well, adding outdoor activities in the summer.”

Indeed, Superior does have some great bowlers. In fact, Superior Lanes recently hosted the city’s top women bowlers who competed for the annual Rose Bowl title.

“It was an awesome turnout and we had the area’s top 22 bowlers here,” McCaffrey said. “We will also have various other tournaments coming up, and we’re excited about that.”

He’s also pleased to become more ingrained in the business community. 

“Until we bought this business, I didn’t really know anything about the Superior Business Improvement District, and what they are doing is fantastic. I want to become part of that,” McCaffrey said. “The Superior community has been very welcoming and I appreciate the response we’ve gotten. A lot of friends have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this, and it’s heartwarming to see the enthusiasm.”

While McCaffrey doesn’t plan on bowing out of the insurance business anytime soon, he’s planning ahead for a future that will focus even more on the bowling business – one that provides a family-friendly environment for people of all ages to enjoy.

“At the insurance agency, we have 24 employees – and we have really loyal, talented employees,” he said. “I’m 52 now and will be in insurance for a while yet, but I want something to be tied to when I’m older. We want our employees in the insurance business to grow and have opportunities. So bowling might be my future – though I’m a really terrible bowler.” PS

Holly Kelsey-Henry is a freelance writer based in Northwest Wisconsin.