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Local couple work to reopen Vandalia Lanes

Posted on Thursday, May 30, 2024 at 6:46 pm

By Stan Schwartz

Wayne Baker and his wife, Janice, are closing on buying the Vandalia bowling alley, Vandalia Lanes, at the end of this month.

Wayne said they were planning on signing the papers at the end of May, talking full ownership of the business. Vandalia Lanes has been closed since the previous owner shuttered the business earlier this year.

The couple, who agreed to an interview at The Corner Café, said they were eager to open the business to provide a little bowling fun to the community. Wayne had been manager of the business on two occasions, the last time was shortly before it was closed.

His timeline for opening, he said, has been pushed back somewhat because he wasn’t allowed in the building until after the papers were signed.

“It’s a liability issue,” he said. “I understand that.”

He’d been hoping to get into the building early to get it cleaned up and install new equipment.

“The power has been off in the building for a month and a half,” Wayne said. “We wanted to get in there and deep clean that kitchen,” he added.

Once he is able to start work inside, Wayne said, the interior would look a lot different than how people in the community remember it.

“We want to give it that retro look,” Janice said. “Have blue-plate specials.”

When they do have their grand opening, Wayne and Janice said they plan to offer free food—burgers and hotdogs. Most likely, they added, they would set up grills outside—weather permitting—to draw people in and see what they accomplished.

Wayne said he managed the business from April to the end of June last year.

Since retiring, the couple had been looking for something to do with their time. Wayne and Janice like to bowl, though for Wayne it’s not that easy for him these days. He is originally from this area, but moved out to Arizona with his family when he was younger.

He had been in law enforcement in Phoenix for more than 20 years. After retiring, he and Janice decided to move to Missouri, where they bought a small farm.

Wayne said he got to talking with the previous owner about the business and decided it would be a fun thing to do—run the bowling alley.

And fun is the optimal word for Wayne. He’s not looking to get rich operating the business. He said he’s doing this for the community.

“I want to give back to the community,” he said. “And we’re in a position where we can do that.” He noted that they’re both retired and planned well for that retirement, which gave them the means to buy that farm and get the bowling alley operational again.

He plans to remove the arcade and restore the viewing area so people could watch the bowlers while enjoying some food.

Wayne said he wants to run it like a restaurant that just happens to have a bowling alley. However, they are also doing some upgrades to the pin setters.

Janice said they are also going to expand the menu to include pizza.

Wayne said he wants to include pork burgers and pork steaks when he gets the restaurant part of the business working again.

Once he’s up and running, Wayne said, he wants to bring back league play to the bowling alley. He added that he’s already reached out to the leagues to let them know Vandalia Lanes will be open, and he believes they will start again sometime this fall.

They also plan to make the bowling alley available for birthday parties and other gatherings, where people can rent out the space.

He’d also like to do summer leagues for the kids, so that they have something to do when they’re out of school.

“We really want to make this work,” Wayne said, which is why they want to be consistent with the business hours. “We are going to be open seven days a week.”

Hours during the week would be 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. for lunch. Then it would close for a few hours and reopen for the evening from 5 – 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, the bowling alley would stay open longer. Depending on how many people are using the lanes in the evening, he added, they might close early.

Sundays, it will be open 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

“So, if they want to go bowling after church, they can,” Wayne said.

Mildred Lopez, who was helping out at the Corner Café, said she was happy the couple were reopening the bowling alley because there needs to be more activities for Vandalia’s youth to do in town. Sure there’s the Aquatic Center and the parks, but during bad weather she’d like to see some indoor activities they can enjoy, too.

Wayne and Janice said keep an eye out for their grand opening. As soon as they’re ready, they will let the community know.