Indy bowling alley manager survives decades of industry decline

Read in Spanish

The 317 Project tells stories of life in all of Indianapolis’ vibrant neighborhoods – 317 words at a time.

Inside All Star Bowl, south of 10th Street, east of North Shortridge Road, a familiar set of sounds unravels: the distinctive thud of a three-hole urethane ball falling to the ground, the thump before the pins drop.

Bowling alley manager Mark Shoch has been listening to it for 52 years, ever since he picked up his first bowling ball at age 6.

“I remember sitting down and rolling it with both hands,” Shoch said.

He has not left the bowling alley since then.

At age 12, he was clearing trash, clearing tables and swept floors at Raceway Lanes, where his father was a manager. When he was old enough to get a job “in the books,” he became a lane guard. As a student at IUPUI, he taught bowling part-time to elementary school children. His first job after college was in marketing at Royal Pin, a local bowling company.

40 years later in the industry, a lot has changed.

“I’ve been around since they didn’t have an automatic score anymore,” said Shoch, alluding to the bygone era of keeping score with pencil and paper.

It’s very different now: automated scoring, bumper pads, arcades, strobe lights, craft beer, motion sensor cameras for interactive play, even live music.

And Shoch, who never thought of leaving the bowling industry because “that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since I was a kid,” has willingly embraced the changes.

Change is inevitable, he says, and “you better embrace it.”

The bowling alleys that don’t are the ones that are “lost”.

But like the hum of a ball rolling through 20 yards of oiled tracks, toward 10 pins, some things haven’t changed, and that’s what keeps him close.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.