(Fortune Magazine) -- Several
decades ago I owned five bowling centers in Detroit. I learned the ins
and outs of how to operate them, but after nine years of running my own,
I decided that the world needed a bowling center broker. I am part
business broker and part commercial real estate broker, although I'm a
lawyer by training. We probably inspect 200 to 300 centers a year. My
team studies their physical condition and checks to make sure the
equipment is modern.
It's important because centers built in
the 1960s and 1970s are still in business, so owners frequently put a
nice façade on the place to lure customers. We also look at the
location. A good market is a growing suburb with lots of families.
And of course we look at the financial
statements. Most make their money on the bowling, not the food and bar.
The bowling industry is quite healthy - popular and in demand. Last year
45 million people went bowling. But just a couple of decades ago,
bowling was looked down upon. You thought of men with big beer bellies
and cigars. In the past ten to 15 years, bowling has repositioned itself
as family-friendly. Still, bowling lanes are bowling lanes - they
haven't changed much. Every five years manufacturers come up with new
equipment and features. Today you can even find glow-in-the-dark bowling
balls and lanes - that's how you fill them up at 1 A.M.