SBA 504 Loan helps Midway Lanes bowl a strike

Jim Mellon remembers the call well. It was 1966. A friend informed him that a bowling alley in Mandan, North Dakota was for sale and he should check it out. It could be a great opportunity, one you don’t want to pass up, the friend said.

Looking back, Mellon admits he was not very interested initially. He was already managing a bowling alley and the job was supporting his wife and young family. The idea of relocating them from their home in Pierre, South Dakota was not very appealing. Yes, someday he’d like to own his own alley but the timing didn’t seem right to him. Nevertheless, Mellon decided to drive north to check on the property.

And the rest is history.

Capitalizing on Opportunity and Taking Risks

Mellon grew up in and around bowling alleys. Over the years he worked every aspect of the business from maintenance on the machines to drilling holes in balls to managing staff and everything else in between.

Mellon could see any bowling alley from the perspective of both the bowler and a manager. He knew what didn’t work, what would bring people in, and what would keep bowlers coming in.

Most of all, Mellon knew an opportunity when he saw it and what he first saw in Mandan’s Midway Lanes 57 years ago was a property with lots of potential.

“The parking lot was not paved. The lighting was poor. The building was uninviting. I could see very quickly why the alley was for sale,” says Mellon. “I immediately had ideas on how to change the place and the thought of owning my own business really appealed to me.”

Mellon approached the opportunity with a realistic attitude on both his abilities and the risks involved.

“I admit I was a natural to own a bowling alley. I grew up in this business. I figured that since I was young at the time I could afford to take the risk. The worst case scenario was I would fail. If that was the case, I’d start over,” remembers Mellon.

Mellon purchased Midway Lanes, moved his family, and it was not long before Midway Lanes was turning a profit. “We were full of bowlers within six months.”

Today, the business employs 64 full- and part-time employees. Besides its bowling lanes, Midway Lanes has a pro shop, restaurant, bar, pizzeria, arcade/game room, and billiards room. The property also has meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 200 people for family get-togethers, company parties, and community events.

Promotion, Innovation, and Smart Planning Pay Off

The secret for Midway Lanes’ – and Mellon’s – success is really is not a secret at all: It’s about promotion. 

“We are always promoting. We always are offering specials and hosting so many events, parties, fundraisers, men’s and women’s league bowling, mixed juniors, birthday parties. We offer it all,” says Mellon.

“We typically host more than 1,000 birthday parties a year. Parents love that. Bring the kids in, let them bowl, and you don’t have to clean up after them.”

Mellon’s promotional instincts are part and parcel of the business strategy he’s implemented since becoming his own boss.

“We look ahead at expansion and promotions a few years out,” he notes. “We look at our numbers, see trends in the sport and industry, and innovate. We always trying something new. We’ve had a few failures over the years, but they’ve been few. We’re always maximizing our promotion.”

Originally built in 1957, and located in Mandan at 3327 Memorial Highway, Midway Lanes takes up more than 90,000 square feet – several thousand of which were added since Mellon purchased the business. 

SBA 504 Loan Positions Midway Lanes for the Future

The most recent expansion was funded by the SBA 504 Loan, provided through Lewis & Clark Development Group. 

Mellon is a big fan of SBA programs. “It’s been my experience the SBA wants small businesses to succeed. I’ve had good experiences with the SBA and have borrowed from them over the years.”

Working with his longtime lenders at Kirkwood Bank & Trust, Mellon was connected with Derrick Becker at Lewis & Clark Development Group to finance his latest project.

“Thanks to the SBA 504, we purchased new equipment to make pizzas, expanded seating in our restaurant and added a game room and prize room.”

Mellon could not be happier with how the project turned out or how easy it was to work with LCD Group.

“They are super people at Lewis and Clark. Very easy to work with. I enjoyed working with them and I tell any other small business owner to talk to your bank and get connected with Lewis and Clark,” adds Mellon.

The expansion well positions Midway Lanes for the future and its eventual new leadership under Bryan Goehring. 

“Bryan has been with us for over 20 years. He’s like family and I’m looking at transitioning everything over to Bryan,” says Mellon.

“The new expansion sets us up well as we move forward. We appreciate everything Lewis and Clark Development Group did for us.”

Click here for more information about the SBA 504 Loan. Contact Derrick Becker and Ashley Hruby today. 

Photos: Courtesy of Midway Lanes, North Dakota Tourism, and US 103.3 FM.