Stix was recently recognized by a bowling industry magazine for the renovation that has transformed it into one of the most modern bowling centers in the country.
The combination restaurant and bowling center was named the “most modernized traditional center” in the country by Bowling Center Management magazine, defined as “a center that focuses almost exclusively on bowling.”
“They’re the most modern bowling center in the state of Michigan, period,” said Michael Postema, sales manager for North America at Brunswick, the company that manufactured Stix’s bowling equipment.
New bowling centers are being built that could rival Stix, but no existing centers have been upgraded to Stix’s level, Postema said.
“We wanted to make it a world-class wow,” he said. “There’s just communities across the country … that want something like that.”
Local eye doctor Andrew Riemer bought the property in 2020, demolishing a bar and restaurant that stood there and gutting the adjacent bowling alley. The bar was replaced with a new two-story structure that connected to the bowling alley and featured brand new technology.
Brunswick, headquartered in Muskegon, worked with Riemer’s team to effectively turn Stix into a “showroom” for the company, which was being tricked with its “latest and best and newest technologies,” Riemer said.
These include Spark, an augmented reality system that can project images onto the lanes so bowlers can play mini-games, such as one where they have to roll the ball over pigs from the mobile game Angry Birds.
Stix is one of two bowling centers in the state with Spark, according to Postema, and one of fewer than 50 nationwide.
Brunswick has also equipped Stix with pin-setting technology so advanced it hasn’t even been released yet. The pin setter, dubbed GS NXT, uses “nearly 100% accurate” sensors instead of cameras to detect fallen pins and can set pins one at a time, allowing for non-standard games, Postema said.
It’s also reliable, software-controlled and relatively low-maintenance, he said, adding that these are good things in an era of less-skilled pin-setter mechanics.
Even without this simple maintenance, said Riemer, the close partnership with Brunswick will pay off for years to come.
“They’re going to provide high-end service, and they’re going to … make sure we all get our quirks out,” he said. “It represents them well and that benefits us and the community even though it’s in prime order.”
But there’s more to Stix’s design than flashy tech. It’s adorned with local memorabilia, like the old Park Lanes neon sign and photo collage above the pins, meant to evoke memories for those who grew up here.
“The pictures there will mean something to the local people because the photos are of people who grew up here and the landscapes and scenes and the shots are all local,” said Riemer. “Someone from out of town won’t appreciate it like a local would.”
The photo collage boards are reversible so photos can be displayed on the other side for variety. And Stix has a projector that can beam videos like sports games onto the boards.
Linus Thalman, whose company oversaw the renovation and construction, said he and Riemer grew up around the former bowling alley, Stix Bar and Park Lanes, and gave credit to Riemer for envisioning their next chapter.
“If Andy hadn’t taken over this property, it would have gone to the graveyard, if you know what I mean,” he said. “It would have been nothing because no one else could do it like Andy.”