Pinot and pins

by Bob Johnson 0

If you saw the movie "Sideways," you spied a number of spots in California's bucolic Santa Ynez Valley, where some of America's best Pinot Noir grapes are grown.

If Ben and Calisse Courtney have their way, those Pinot vines soon will be joined by bowling pins. The Courtneys would like to open a 16-lane bowling center — complete with an arcade, billiard tables and food service — on a famous but run-down stretch of the town of Buellton: the Avenue of the Flags.

Buellton officials have been working on plans to revive the once vibrant road, which serves as the entrance to town off Highway 101 from the north. But there is debate over whether a "bowling alley" should be a part of the revival, even though it would replace a long-abandoned gas station.

Numerous groups are involved in the process, including the Buellton City Council, the city's Redevelopment Agency, and a resident group known as Buellton Is Our Town.

Noted BIOT's Joan Hartmann of the proposed bowling facility: "It does not create a lot of jobs or even high-paying jobs."

Many locals would like to see the Avenue of the Flags become Buellton's "town center," so every new business proposed for the avenue is undergoing close scrutiny. The Courtneys have no experience in the bowling business.

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.

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