GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While the doors aren’t open to the public just yet, the pins are already flying inside Amway Grand Plaza’s new addition: Woodrows DuckPin.
Restauranteur Johnny Brann Jr. teamed up with Josh Canale and Jeff Royce to bring the new business to downtown Grand Rapids. Muskegon-based Brunswick Bowling Products helped roll out the concept and provide the supplies.
“This is something that we’re all extremely invested in and excited about and we wanted to do not just because it’s a great opportunity for a business… but it’s also something that’s really amazing for the community,” Brann said. “We truly believe in our hearts that it’ll draw people downtown… We’re just excited to bring this to Grand Rapids and bring more people to enjoy our wonderful community.”
The team started building out Woodrows DuckPin in July, but hit delays in construction materials. Brann said the slowdown allowed them to focus on the design and collaborate with the community, hotel and those involved in redesigning Lyon Square, located right outside their business.
“It gave us time to really be very deliberate and make the concept really work for what we’re trying to do, which again is to really bring people downtown, especially following COVID, especially where we can get people back together, gather and get out and have some fun together,” Brann said.
HOW DUCKPIN BOWLING WORKS
Bowling at Woodrows DuckPin isn’t like your traditional trip to the alley. The pins are shorter, fatter and spaced farther apart. The bowling ball is smaller, lighter and has no finger holes. In duckpin bowling, the lanes are shorter and bowling shoes are not required.
Despite the changes, Brann says duckpin bowling is still challenging.
“There’s never been a perfect game ever bowled in DuckPin bowling,” he said.
But the game appeals to all ages. Canale said he brought his daughters in to try duckpin bowling, “and they were hooked immediately.”
“Watching people just come up and get hooked immediately, it’s just a lot of fun and you just want to keep doing it, you want to keep getting better, you want to try to beat your score and compete,” Canale said.
Brann says anticipation is mounting among the bowling community.
“There’s a lot of enthusiastic duckpin bowlers that we didn’t really know existed in West Michigan, but they’re starting to come out of the woodwork and they’re really excited. And I think there’ll be some pretty cool opportunities to have some leagues and some corporate retreats and events and private parties,” Brann said.
Woodrows Duck Pin will rent its alleys by the hour. Customers will be able to check availability and reserve a spot at www.woodrowsducpin.com.
‘REALLY EXCITING’ TRANSFORMATION INSIDE THE AMWAY GRAND
The new site for Woodrows DuckPin was previously home to GP Sports Bar and Tootsie Van Kelly’s before that.
Brann said the project was “north of $1 million,” but called the cost reasonable, given the extent of the overhaul inside Amway Grand.
“It was a very big project in the sense that we had a lot to transform here in this space,” Brann said.
Three bowling lanes now cover where the double-sided bar once stood. Contractors also removed brick from the room’s riveted columns to expose the original surface and peeled off the flooring to reveal the original terrazzo, which Canale said was in surprisingly good condition.
“This particular space, there’s so much history. To be able to transform it, keep it going, but transform with a new version of what we’re doing now is really exciting,” Royce said.
The Woodrows DuckPin team then added a more modern flair to the space with lounge areas, a new bar, wood and metal tables and large screen TVs for watching sports, in addition to the duckpin bowling lanes.
Brann says the concept is unprecedented for the area.
“There are a few maybe one-lane duckpin alleys around Michigan… but not an entire concept is built around duckpin bowling. So this will be the first in Michigan to really develop an entire concept and space and bar service and exterior experience and sports viewing all under one roof with seven lanes of duckpin bowling,” said Brann.
The bar at Woodrows DuckPin will serve up beer, wine, liquor and craft cocktails. Brann says the menu will include products from Michigan breweries, wineries and distilleries and West Michigan brands like New Holland, Founders and Long Road Distillers.
Woodrows DuckPin plans to open its patio this spring. Customers will be able to order drinks from Woodrows DuckPin or food from Amway Grand Plaza hotel’s Taco Alley from a walk-up window inside Woodrows. Brann says guests are also welcome to bring in or have their favorite food delivered to Woodrows DuckPin.
Woodrows DuckPin will host its first fundraiser Thursday night for the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan. A ticket to the event gets you bowling, appetizers and three drink tickets. As of Wednesday morning, tickets were still available online.
Brann expects Woodrows DuckPin to open to the general public “very soon.”
“Within the next few weeks, we should be ready to go. We’re just finishing a few items on the to-do list and we’ll be ready to open,” he said.
Woodrows DuckPin’s starting business hours will be 4 pm to 10 pm Tuesday through Thursday; 4 pm to midnight Friday; 11 am to midnight Saturday and 11 am to 9 pm Sunday.
“We’ll see how the flow of the business goes and we’ll make adjustments along the way,” Brann said.
Royce said it has been a long journey to get to this point, but he’s enjoyed working with his newfound business partners. He said it won’t be their last venture together.
“This is the start of a lot of big things. So we’re very, very excited just to get open, get to this stage,” Royce said.