Getting to know your neighbor: it’s all in the family at Springville Lanes
“I didn’t get excited about getting up in the morning to balance the company ledger,” Farner explained. “Here, I get paid to do what I love to do. I’m blessed to get to do what I love, every day.”
His previous career as an accountant does come in handy when tax time rolls around, however.
“I do all my own bookkeeping. It’s less expensive,” he explained. “I grew up on a farm and I guess I always saw that it was better to be your own boss than to work for somebody [else]. So, when the chance came to own my own business, I had to jump at it.”
A few months after Farner and his wife Debbie bought the property, they found out they were expecting a baby. A few months after that, they learned twins were on the way. Today, 16-year-old Samantha and Kevin and their 14-year-old brother Quinn help their parents with the lanes.
Kevin Farner said that working with young people is his favorite part of running the alleys, which caters to approximately 400 bowlers each week, all year-round. Farner, a certified bowling instructor, said he enjoys teaching new bowlers this sport.
“We have kids, ladies, men [and] families. It’s a blast. Everybody comes in here hoping to have a good time, and they do,” Farner said, of the leagues that run during the winter bowling season, as well as the birthday parties he hosts for kids.
“Ever since we put in bumper bowling, the parties are great for the kids, but also for the moms,” Debbie Farner explained. “It takes a lot of stress away from the moms. We take care of everything, clean everything up when they leave. They can just come in here; the [kids are] corralled and they’ve got something to do. We fill them up with sugar, tire them out and send them home,” she added, with a laugh.
“There’s nothing better than watching a kid get a strike for the first time,” Kevin Farner said. “The best age for a kid to start bowling is 8 or 9. We see them as young as 5 or 6, but when they’re a little older, they’ve got the motor skills and the comprehension to really get it, both the theory and the mechanics.”
Farner said he uses one of two different methods when teaching a student the game, depending on the individual’s age and skill level.
“I can teach them the whole approach or break it down into smaller pieces,” he said. “Some of the younger students are really gifted and can get it all right away, but sometimes those who take a little longer to grasp the concept are the ones who really appreciate it more.”
Both Springville-Griffith Institute and West Valley Central School teams use Springville Lanes as their home base and Farner said his philosophy in coaching is to “watch and listen” to see how well the students are picking up the sport.
“The best bowlers average 210-220, but you don’t have to average that high to be in a league,” Farner said, noting that the leagues at his lanes employ a handicap system similar to the one used in golf. “A lot of people average in the 180-190 area.”
Springville Lanes also has a full bar and a snack bar, which offers “all the healthy food usually found at a bowling alley,” according to Farner. He pointed out that bowlers say his are “the best wings in town,” and that many people will order a wrap sandwich only if his daughter Samantha is manning the station.
“You have to fold it so the stuff doesn’t fall out,” Samantha Farner said, with a shrug. Her specialty is the Buffalo chicken wrap which she confirmed does not need to be served with a fork, unlike her dad’s creations.
“The lanes have been a great way to teach our kids the value of service and hard work,” said Kevin Farner. All three students are home-schooled, which allows them the flexibility to help out at the family business.
“This is like our second house,” said Samantha Farner. “We’ve always had the lanes, ever since we were born. To have someone else own it would be like having someone else own your home.”
The lanes have changed hands several times since the business originally opened, under the ownership of Anthony Skuza. He sold it to the Godert family in the 1940s, who sold it to Mick McCarthy in the late 50s. In the 60s, McCarthy sold it to his daughter Maureen and her husband Mike Dash, who manned the helm until the Farners purchased it in 1995.
“That’s the neat thing about bowling,” Farner said. “The older guys will come in here and tell stories about when they used to be pin boys. They wrote their names on the wall above the lanes and it’s neat for the kids to hear how they used to reset the pins by hand for 12 cents a game. It’s unique. People feel like this is their place.”
That family atmosphere carries over into the way the Farners relate to the community, as well. In the wake of Debbie Farner’s recent health problems, the couple said the community has pulled together to help them through it.
“The outpouring of love and support is really amazing. We’re so blessed. It’s like we’re part of a big family,” Kevin Farner said.
Debbie Farner said that sometimes, the former junior bowling league participants come back “just to say hello” and update the Farners on their lives.
“They come in here and they call Debbie ‘Mom,’” Kevin Farner added. “It’s a lot of fun watching them grow up.”
Springville Lanes has all the modern bowling amenities, including fully automated scoring and pin machines, as well as black lights that went in about 10 years ago.
“We try to make it bright and cheery,” he said, referencing the brightly-painted designs on the walls. “All of our record-keeping is computerized. It saves a lot of time. A lot of the younger people don’t even know how to keep score anymore. I don’t know of any place that still does it by pencil.”
Farner noted that there are only a dozen or so bowling alleys left in Western New York, but that more than 100 colleges offer scholarships to bowlers. Two of those will go to his children, Samantha and Quinn, and another to Miranda Clark, an S-GI bowler. The students will receive their awards at a banquet at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens this weekend.
Overall, the Farner family members said they love what they do.
Farner said he could sum his experiences up in one sentence: “When you do what you love and you love what you do, you are blessed, all day, every day.”
Springville Lanes is open by appointment during the summer months, although some leagues do run throughout the summer months and local day care and children’s programs take summer field trips to the lanes. The business can be reached at 592-2260.