A Mill Creek area family business will stay just that after new owners purchased Holiday Bowl Wednesday.
Jan and Corinne Cowan and their son and daughter-in-law, Jeremy and Victoria Cowan, all of Neelyton, purchased the family bowling center from Jim and Mary Shuck, who have owned and operated the business for 31 years.
“We’re going to maintain the top quality service that folks have come to expect from Jim,” said Jan Cowan. “We do have some ideas down the road, but we’re going to keep things the same.”
That service is something the Shucks have worked hard to create and maintain over the years.
“This has been my life for 31 years,” said Jim Shuck, who has watched three generations of bowlers come through the center’s doors. “We have junior bowlers who have grown to bring us a new generation of junior bowlers.”
He said his customers have been more that that — they’ve been a second family.
“We’re one big family,” said Shuck. “Our girls grew up here and were adopted by league bowlers.”
The Shucks were joined by their daughters, Jenna and Leah, for their last league night Tuesday.
Bowlers will still see Shuck from time to time, as he plans to assist the Cowans drilling balls, working the pro shop and helping with training.
Mary Shuck plans to volunteer with the Unique Friends bowling group that visits the center once a week from July through November.
“We’re not going anywhere right away,” said Mary Shuck.
The Cowans are not new to the bowling world, as Jan and Jeremy started bowling on a fire company league in 1988. Corinne also bowled on a league and Victoria has bowled for the last seven years. Jeremy continues to bowl as a member of multiple leagues.
Jan, with the help of Jeremy, owns Cowan Transportation and raises heifers and farms 700 acres. He said Jeremy was interested in purchasing the center as soon as he heard the Shucks’ plans for retirement.
The Shucks announced their plans to sell the center in The Daily News in late February.
“The article ran on a Thursday and the Cowans expressed interest the following Monday. A week later, they said they’d take it,” said Shuck, who had five other parties interested in the property.
“We had been looking for another business for Jeremy to take over,” said Jan.
After some financial research, the family decided the price was within their budget and the center would be a good investment.
“We really decided to move on because of Jim and (employee) Steve Rusk, who will continue to work for us,” said Jan. “Everyone loves Steve.”
Rusk worked part-time at the center for a number of years before becoming a full-time staff member in 2006.
Three days after the decision to purchase Holiday Bowl, Jim Shuck was hospitalized due to illness.
“Steve stepped up while I was hospitalized from March 7 to April 12,” said Jim. “It was a good learning experience.”
During that time, Jim said his league bowlers were confident in Steve’s abilities.
“Our league meetings went very well and 99 percent of the teams indicated they will be returning next year,” said Jim.
Rusk said the change in ownership will be a good, but different move.
“I’ve worked with Jim and Mary for so long,” said Rusk. “I’m like an adopted child and I’m getting a new family.”
Rusk will take the lead at the center, with Jeremy and Victoria Cowan helping to run operations. Corinne, who will soon retire from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, plans to work at the center part-time.
Despite having other interested parties, the Shucks wanted to make sure the center was passed onto someone who would maintain the family atmosphere.
“We were selective. We wanted to make sure we were getting (the center) into the hands of people who shared our values,” said Jim.
While Jan said he’s been asked many times about acquiring a liquor license, he assured folks the family is not interested in selling alcohol.
“We’re not interested in a liquor license,” said Jan. “Our goal is to keep things the same. It’s all about family.”
The Cowans said they have short-term and long-term plan for their new venture, but for now they plan to make some exterior improvements to the building and parking lot.
“We want a smooth transition and to keep customers happy,” said Jan.
Jan thanked business banker Crystal Sunderland of F&M Trust who helped the family secure financing for the project.
“She looked at the long-term plan and she was encouraging,” he said.
Sunderland said she sees potential for the business.
“Huntingdon County is unique in that there’s not a lot of indoor activities, and that makes this a profitable business,” she said.
Jim said the sale hasn’t really sunk in yet, but above all, he’s thankful for his customers.
“We’ve been blessed,” he said. “There are a lot of emotions when you become connected with your customers. I’ve enjoyed doing this for a living for 31 years.”
Becky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.