Yukon couple take over bowling alley

El Reno Bowl under new ownership

New El Reno Bowl owners and operators David Dunn and Melissa Stringer inside the colorful bowling alley that debuted in 1959 along historic Route 66. Arcade games will remain inside El Reno Bowl, the new owners said. (Photo by Ray Dyer)

By Ray Dyer
El Reno Tribune

EL RENO – David Dunn and Melissa Stringer are familiar with El Reno.

The couple live in Yukon and will often drive over for an onion burger or to take in special events such as A Small-Town Weekend and Smoke on the Water.

Dunn has friends in El Reno. He once bought a used bus from Midwest Bus Sales and his friend, David Tinsley. He painted it lime green and used it to advertise his Oklahoma City bar known as Margaritaville.

David Dunn and Melissa Stringer in front of the El Reno Bowl sign that greets motorists on Route 66. (Photo by Ray Dyer)

He also tried to get the late Mark Gilmore to come work for him when he was operating an establishment that featured steaks.

Retired from 34 years at General Motors, Dunn said he’s never been one to be “without two jobs.” He grew up on a farm and work is apparently part of his DNA.

So, what’s a fellow do after retiring from GM and running a bar and some restaurants before selling them off?

“I’ve never owned a bowling alley,” Dunn said.

He does now.

Dunn recently purchased El Reno Bowl from longtime owners, Charlie and Loretta Hale. A relative who works in real estate told him about the opportunity after he asked her to be on the lookout for some good investment property.

When she told him about the bowling alley in El Reno, he said he had to come take a look.

At 67, Dunn admits when he first pulled up to El Reno Bowl, the neighborhood it’s situated in didn’t exactly serve as a selling point.

“It’s terrible,” he said, referring to a nearby dilapidated property. “It almost caused me not to buy the bowling alley.”

But after walking inside and seeing how organized and immaculately kept the business was, he was won over. The fact the bowling alley sits on historic Route 66 was another positive factor.

Dunn was so impressed with how the business was operated he placed a photo of the former owners in a case near the entrance to El Reno Bowl.

“I think Loretta told me her father owned a bowling alley, so she spent some 60 years either working in one or owning one,” he said.

Pickleball courts are some of the possible improvements David Dunn and Melissa Stringer say they have in mind for the area north of the bowling alley. (Photo by Ray Dyer)

Dunn and Stringer don’t plan any major changes, just yet. They will add some Keto items to the extensive food menu, and they have applied for a beer and wine license, but Dunn said he no longer wants to be in the bar business.

“We want this to be about bowling and family entertainment,” Stringer said.

While no major changes are planned for inside the bowling alley, Dunn did say he is seriously considering how the area around El Reno Bowl can be improved and enhanced. He sees some real opportunity in adding more entertainment options to the property.

A photo of the former owners, Charlie and Loretta Hall, rests inside a glass case near the entrance of El Reno Bowl. New owner David Dunn said he wanted to pay tribute to the couple that owned and operated El Reno Bowl for years. (Photo by Ray Dyer)

“I’ve got more land here that’s undeveloped than is developed,” he said, pointing to the parking area to the north of the building. Dunn is looking at various options for the property, including creating pickleball courts.

El Reno Bowl will continue to offer birthday parties and special events. Stringer said they are open to hosting fundraiser tournaments for schools and organizations.

Dunn helped create the Oklahoma Memorial Ride, a motorcycle event that raises funds for the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial. He said with Route 66 serving as the driveway for El Reno Bowl, he can imagine classic car and motorcycle events that can bring more life to the west side of El Reno.

The hours at El Reno Bowl will remain consistent: Monday, 3 to 10 p.m., Tuesday, noon to 10 p.m., and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m., to close, which means if several bowlers are still bowling at 10 p.m., the doors will stay open. The lanes will open for business on Sunday at noon.

“I want this to be fun,” Dunn said. “If I’m going to be working, I want it to be at something that is fun and enjoyable.”