Ajax Bowling Centre is Reinventing the Wheel, One Pin at a Time

Jessie Davis

Sometimes it’s all in the timing.

In March of 2020, Tin Lin was just one month into ownership of the Ajax Bowling Centre in downtown Ajax when the province locked down due to COVID-19. February had been a great month right through March break, and Tin was determined to keep Ajax’s only 5-pin bowling centre afloat through the pandemic that would wreak havoc on so many small businesses around the world.

“I was a little bit nervous,” he tells me through his mask. It was a great relief to be able to open back up in July of this year.

He speaks loudly so that I can hear him over the gaggles of children and parents filling every lane except the one I’ve reserved. Children’s birthday parties, he says, are currently his most popular booking. The centre offers a separate party room with tables where partygoers can enjoy a snack, or adults can take advantage of the bar.

Source: Ajax Bowling Centre

As the weather cools down and people start spending less time outside and more time cooped up indoors, Tin anticipates that regular bookings will pick up as well. For smaller kids, Ajax Bowling Centre offers adorable little dinosaur ramps to help roll those heavy balls. For players of all ages who prefer a bit of an easier game, the centre also offers bumper lanes to help ensure that everyone gets to feel the satisfaction of knocking down a pin or five.

Tin has also made some major investments to modernize the business – from a fancy point-of-sale (POS) system to things like an electronic scoring system that updates automatically after each player’s shot.

“Before I took over, there was no (digital) scoring system!” Tin explains, and I am floored. How did a bowling alley make it into the new millennium with only paper printouts? Before Tin’s upgrades, players had to manually mark the symbol and number score for each shot on a piece of paper. I think about children’s birthday parties, currently the most popular booking type. Imagine having 10 small kids running around as you try to decipher whether you should mark down a letter, symbol, or number?

The new electronic scoring system. Source: Ajax Bowling Centre

Tin tells me that they still have one league that prefers the paper scoring system, and my guess is that they like to keep the paper records for future reference. Perhaps it’s simply that, much like mine, their old habits die hard. I’m just glad to hear that leagues are still of interest to people post-pandemic, as Tin tells me that less than half of Ajax Bowling Centre’s leagues are currently scheduled to come back. If you’ve ever considered joining a bowling league, now is the time to do it!

My visit on this particular Sunday afternoon brings back fond memories of my high school job at a different Durham Region bowling alley: black lights, multi-coloured swirling disco lights, and sometimes literally the very same pop music that played all those years ago. My trio ventured into the thick of the children’s birthday parties and marveled at the fancy keyboard where players enter their names into the electronic system. We also laughed almost every time our individual turns came up, since we all kept getting transfixed by both the scoring system’s goofy graphics and the “HappyTV” videos playing on the screen beside us.

The glow bowling we enjoyed. Source: Ajax Bowling Centre

All in all we had a lovely time with fantastic, friendly service. We look forward to visiting Tin and his team again soon!

Ajax Bowling Centre

172 Harwood Avenue South
Ajax, Ontario

NOTE: At the time of publishing, Durham Region and the Province of Ontario are in Step 2 of the Roadmap to Reopen with modifications; the Province’s three-step plan to safely and gradually lift public health measures, based on improvements of key public health and health care indicators. We continue to publish these stories to encourage you to explore these businesses and communities online and through social media. When possible, please order for safe curbside pick-up if offered, and prepare to explore these areas once they are able to safely reopen.