From the mid- to late-20th century, certain names became synonymous with the bowling business in certain cities.
In Indianapolis, it was Don Mitchell, who operated the Royal Pin Leisure Centers chain. In Milwaukee, it was Dick Richards, operator of the Red Carpet chain of centers. And in Cincinnati, it was the Hoinke family, long-time operators of the famed Hoinke Classic and owners of Western Bowl.
Mitchell died in 2012. Richards passed away last October. And on Monday, a member of Cincinnati’s famous bowling family, Erv Hoinke Jr., died. He was 82.
While Hoinke’s father created the tournament that carried the family name, it was “Junior” who took it to another level, adding various events that helped spike participation and bolster the prize fund. At its height, the Hoinke Classic paid out well over $1 million per year.
The history of the tournament shows that it originated at, appropriately enough, Hoinke Lanes in the West Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati. In the late 1950s, some of the Hoinke tournament events were moved to the much larger Western Bowl, a 64-lane center built by three local businessmen in Green Township. In 1970, the entire tournament was conducted at Western.
Once the family gained ownership of the center, Hoinke was among the first to invest in sound and special effects lighting systems, as well as synthetic lanes.
"Erv Hoinke stood head and shoulders above the norm, especially when it came to integrity," said Jim Bennett, former Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing for Brunswick Bowling. "The bowling world knew who he was and what he stood for."
Today, the Hoinke Classic continues to be operated, but no longer with family involvement. The 72nd edition is scheduled to run through November 22.
Services for Erv Hoinke Jr. are pending.