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Pine River: New owners build on bowling alley basics

Tami and Sandi Zoldey are the new faces of the Community Bowl and Pizzeria in Pine River. Travis Grimler/Echo Journal1 / 2
Tami and Sandi Zoldey are the new faces of the Community Bowl and Pizzeria in Pine River. Travis Grimler/Echo Journal 2 / 2

On her second visit to Pine River Community Bowl, Sandi Zoldey simply told her husband, "I want it," and that was that.

Zoldey had been in the bowling alley two weeks earlier during Thursday youth leagues when she sat and watched the bowlers interact for the first time. Afterward, she met with her daughter, Tami Zoldey, who had long ago agreed to help her if she found a business she liked.

"She had asked one day if she ever found anything she wanted to do if I would help her," Tami said. "I didn't really believe her. I just thought it was something she'd think about and move on. Then one day she said she found a bowling alley and asked if I would help her get started and come up here for six months to help her."

Once Tami was on board, it was time to get husband Bill on board.

One Thursday on their way to their Hackensack cabin from the Twin Cities, Sandi convinced her husband to turn at the stoplights in Pine River and get pizza at a bowling alley he didn't even know existed.

"He asked, 'How did you know this place was here?' and I said, 'Because it's up for sale,'" Sandi said. "He still didn't get it. I told him, 'I want it.'"

Sandi had been on the hunt for a new passion for approximately a year and a half. She was no longer able to work in hospice, basically her lifelong career, so she needed something new. Before she sat in during Thursday youth leagues she had no idea what that new thing would look like, but she knew it would be business ownership.

"I had no idea whatsoever," Sandi said. "I knew I needed to do something. I'm not a stay-at-home person so I needed to buy a place. Doctors can stop me from working, but not from owning a place."

In August, Sandi placed a bid on the bowling alley, and Feb. 4 the deal was done and the mother-daughter duo took over ownership. Some changes took place right away.

At the request of the former owners, the name was changed, but to keep it familiar the new owners went with Community Bowl and Pizzeria. In addition, the Zoldeys immediately requested a full liquor license, meaning the bowling alley now sells more than the 3.2 beer that customers would have been more familiar with. More changes are on the way as well.

"I want a dining room," Sandi said. "We are going to rip this (the locker section) out and install a dining room. I'm very excited about that. I want to open for lunch. I plan to stay open in the summer."

"What I'm hoping for is starting in the spring because we want to wait for leagues to wind down," Tami said. "When the leagues end we're going to take the lockers where they are at and stick them in the game room."

To make room for the lockers and benches, some of the less used games will be removed, but others will remain.

In addition, the Zoldeys will accept credit and debit cards. There are also plans to start offering lunch hours with full menu options and bowling and the possibility of summer bowling leagues.

As far as what will remain the same, the bowling alley will sell the same pizzas at the same prices as always, though the menu will expand to include corn dogs and calzones. Since the bowling alley is already set up for moonlight bowl, the Zoldeys have already started doing Saturday moonlight bowling with music and black lights.

The fact that the bowling alley is so important to the Pine River community means that the Zoldeys are dedicated to building on what the locals love, and making it better.

"These people have an expectation of what they've had," Sandi said.

When the weather warms up, Tami said they might have a special event with low prices to really kick off their ownership of the business.

"I'm thinking in the beginning of summer we will have a grand opening with a special deal for pizza and bowling," Tami said.