Coloma Lanes owner throwing A “Burn the Mortgage” Party

Coloma Lanes owner Ray Steadmon discusses night's activities with Rocky Gulliver, former owner of Lakes Bowl. Gulliver works the control desk on Tuesdays while Steadmon bowls in the George Huffman Memorial League.
Ray Steadmon, Coloma Lanes owner, working the control desk before the house fills with bowlers on Tuesday night. Steadmon will be hosting a "Burn the Mortgage" party April 15. The papers will go up in flames between 6 and 7 PM.

Ray Steadmon took a risk 29 years ago, leaving the corporate bowling world in Kalamazoo to become an owner. Now it’s time to throw a party for all of his friends and customers who have supported him and Coloma Lanes as he nears the final payment.

            “It’s a huge deal for me, but I never thought it would be for everyone else,” Steadmon explained. “Jarred Metz and Cody Moore came to me and said we have to have a party. The more we talked it was about everyone’s success. Without out them, we would never have gotten here.”

            There will be four Singles No-Tap tournament shifts beginning at 2 PM on April 15 running every two hours until the final 9 PM shift. Each shift has its own coordinator with three bowlers per lane. The 9 PM shift is full but there are still openings on other shifts. Tommy Lopresti will be handling the bean-bag tournament.

            “When we have a tournament here, everybody knows everybody. Its like “Cheers” Steadmon explained. “It’s hard to recreate the friendship and companionship we have here. The customers own this place. They’ve helped keep it open and brought in their friends.”

            Tony Jacobs, a close friend of Steadmon, will be the D.J. for entertainment and dancing. “He played softball and bowled here with his three kids.” Dan Lindquist, another customer, will be the guest chef for the day.

            Steadmon was a district manager over three Kalamazoo Bowling Centers, secretary of the Kalamazoo Bowling Association, color commentator on Channel 41’s Budweiser Challenge and a liaison to the PBA. Kenny Sulko, former owner of the center, was a real estate guy according to Steadmon. “He gave me a five-year management contract to earn the down payment. He sold it to me strictly on my reputation in Kalamazoo.”

            And then there were the softball fields filled with teams during the summer as Steadmon reminisced about building that part of the business. Then came the economy downturn about 2007 and he had to shut it down. The years following were tough on the bowling industry with many centers closing.

            Asked his secret in surviving Steadmon quickly answered, “Recognizing that I was no longer in charge of revenue, but I was still in charge of expenses. I traded in my owner badge for a doer badge, watching everything in expenses. “It used to be you would come in each morning, turn on all the lights and be open until closing seven days a week.”  Steadmon moved some leagues around, allowing him to close 2-3 days a week during the winter season and all summer.

            Steadmon credits his mechanic of 27-years, Mike Doren, for keeping the AMF pinsetters in near-perfect condition. “He knows these machines like no one else. He can fix anything.” Steadmon says Doren comes in once a week during the summer just to do maintenance on the machines. Jen Gerstenkorn has been with Coloma Lanes for ten years “handling the bar and keeping the place clean.”

            Will he continue to operate the center? “Maybe till the day I die. It’s a really good gig.” He hopes the future will allow him a bit more flexibility in the winter to go places with his wife, Robin, then adding, “I like what I do. I like being here. My only regret is my dad won’t be here to share it. He passed away in November.”

            Asked about favorite memories and Steadmon began talking about the first 300’s and 800’s shot under his ownership. “I told them whatever right-hander shot the first 300 I would stand on my head and announce it. Pete Urness did, and yes, I stood on my head. Steve Fannin held the microphone. Billy Metzger had the first left-handed 300 and Darrell Daugherty shot 802. I shot 803 the next year and broke his record.”

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