Business Spotlight: Tigard Bowl Spared from Bankruptcy
Bowling has been a popular pastime for families, friends, and people of all ages since the late 1800s. It’s no secret that they are a fun place to sit around, hang out, drink, and play a few games. Others take it more seriously and enjoy some friendly competition with other competitors. Tigard Bowl, located off Highway 99 in Tigard, OR has provided a fun and energetic environment for all types of bowlers for over 60 years.
Owners: Mark Pearl and wife Lori Pearl
Location: 11660 SW Pacific Highway Portland, OR 97223
Phone: 503 639 2001
Cost: $3.25 per game
Number of Lanes: 14
Approach – The act of taking steps towards the lane before rolling the ball; also the name of the area directly behind the foul line that contains three sets of dots used for lining up of the feet. (Learn more about mastering the bowling approach.)
Mark Pearl, the owner of Tigard Bowl, wasn’t always interested in bowling. He began work in the labor industry at a young age and did it for about 30 years. While he enjoyed the work he did, there came a time when he realized he couldn’t do manual labor forever. His wife, Lori Pearl, had a family business in the area, and eventually the couple were asked if they would like to get involved. The business had been around since 1954 and was a staple of the community. Mark saw this as an opportunity and countered with the idea of them owning the entire place. Soon after, he and his wife owned Tigard Bowl. Once they had control over the alley, Mark decided it was time that he learned how to really bowl, and since then he has been in love with the sport and the people it attracts. Mark has now been bowling regularly for almost 30 years! He is even a participant in five different bowling leagues.
While bowling alleys may not be considered large money makers, Mark and his wife have turned Tigard Bowl into a unique environment where the profit comes strictly from bowling and not gimmicky arcade games. While some money does come from the food and full bar that they offer, its the bowling that keeps them afloat.
Tigard Bowl offers a variety of bowling related services, such as shoe and ball rental, pro shop work, and a great lane machine that makes sure the floor always has the perfect amount of oil. On top of that, Pearl is consistently offering free bowling lessons and tips as well as hosting many league tournaments and events. His league bowlers know better than anyone that the regulars can make or break a business. Most of the profit comes from his league bowlers, as they come in consistently each week and he knows he can depend on them.
Tigard Bowl really isn’t your average alley. While the same general services are offered, the atmosphere and sense of community helps this place top all the others. Mark Pearl and his wife, as well as kids, are very involved in the day to day operations. They spend most of their time in their alley, whether they are fixing things, helping at registers, or engaging with customers.
From the second you walk into the building, you can tell that Mark Pearl really cares about his business and everyone that comes into it. He is a very social man, and genuinely enjoys conversing with everyone whether it's about bowling or one of his band’s gigs.
Mark is always excited to give pointers as well. He gives many free lessons and often joins in on games, helping him to connect with regulars and newcomers alike. Tigard Bowl is the place where you stop for a drink and a quick game and stay for the new friends and good hard laughs. If you go once, you will most certainly want to go back soon.
You Can’t Split the Friendships Here:
Ever since Mark took over the alley, the community has grown bigger and bigger. Many of the league bowlers have become friends for life, and the Tigard Bowl staff is glad to be a part of that.
One man has been bowling there for years. He is 93 years old, has been in the men’s league for somewhere near 50 years, has bowled in two different upper level competitive leagues, and he consistently shoots 200 point games. He has a strong love for bowling, and Pearl likes to joke that the game is what keeps him going.
Another woman, Cheryl Drake, met her late husband at Tigard Bowl. She was bowling on a Saturday night for Monte Carlo. Back in 1992 scoring was done by hand, and Cheryl was still learning how to do it. That night a man named Bill sat down on lane 10 and explained to her the process, and that was the beginning of their relationship. They ended up being married for almost 21 years before Bill passed.
“I was bowling as a sub on Bill’s team and threw a 242 scratch and Bill struck out just to tie me! Everyone gave him [a hard time] for not letting me win, but in the end we were on the same team that night! He always loved a good fight!”
Mark Pearl himself has made numerous friends through his business, which is a large part of why he is so passionate about his alley. He met his two best friends through bowling at his center and he is now on teams with the two of them (excluding COVID times).
"It’s part of what draws you to keep going back to Tigard Bowl! I have many friends from there to this day!"" -Cheryl Drake
Covid Strikes Down the Alley:
When COVID-19 hit, Tigard Bowl was fully shut down. Thinking it would all be overwish in a month or two, Mark Pearl kept all of the employees fully on payroll for over 4 months, using PPP loans from the government to help him afford it. While they couldn’t open to the public, many of the employees came in to help clean. After two months the loans ended, but Mark kept his employees under payroll for another two and a half months before having to lay off employees. They were closed for a full 7 months, with no income. Just to keep the building shut down it cost him and his family around $20,000 per month! They spent up to $250,000 out of pocket since closed, just trying to keep things ready and help employees as much as possible. They lost almost everything and would’ve had to close permanently if they hadn’t opened by November.
Mark knew they had to take action unless they wanted to lose the iconic business Tigard Bowl had become. On the verge of bankruptcy, he asked the close friends he had made over the years to help spread the word. They began having protests on Saturdays, asking everyone to send letters to various officials, reaching out to the news channels and the Oregonian, etc. Most importantly, he made sure to spread the word that he genuinely wants to keep customers safe by any means possible.
Before even re opening, Mark had taken extensive measures to make sure he was prepared. He devised a plan to keep everyone socially distanced, purchased large amounts of cleaning supplies, and installed two plastic 6x6 panels between each lane. Mark Pearl was ready to open and determined to make it happen fast.
Community Pulled them from the Gutter:
While Mark Pearl himself moved mountains to reopen his alley, it was the amazing support from his bowling community and the bonds they had made that got Tigard Bowl open again on October 22nd. Many friends and bowlers had come together to support the business and help send letters, protest, create fundraisers and gofundme pages, and just spread the word. During their final demonstration out along the highway, Pearl received a call with the great news. Effective immediately, the “phase 1.5” revision allowed for the alley to re-open as soon as they could get everything in order.
Tigard Bowl was officially reopened the next day- October 23rd, 2020. Though they are finally ready for bowlers, they have had to adapt to follow the new COVID procedures. There will be one entrance and one exit. Upon entering for your reserved time, you will be given gloves to use while you find a ball that fits, that way you can try them all out. Then you’ll take the gloves with you to your lane, receive sanitized rental shoes, and be able to bowl. Your lane will be divided from the next and you will be required to wear a mask at all times. When you are done you’ll leave your balls, gloves and shoes there so that an employee can go sanitize them and anything else you may have touched. Hours have also had to change, and any other rules and regulations they will comply with can be found on the Oregon Health Authority site.
The 10th Frame:
After a long fight, Mark Pearl is very excited to have his alley back open. He has lots of time to make up for and intends to start bringing the bowling community back together right away. Hopefully with a few more adjustments he will be also to get the leagues going again and maybe even rebuild their savings. He and his family would love any support you can give them and hope to see you in for some lessons!