Trevor Stride was born into the bowling business.

While he was still a baby in diapers, he would spend his afternoons ambling about the nursery which once occupied the back of Plaza Bowling Co. in Edmonton's Alberta Avenue neighbourhood.

"There used to be a nursery in the back, which was amazing," said Stride, who recently took over management of the third generation family business, and is making some big changes. 

"My mom would come bowl with her friends and my aunts, and they would basically park us back in this nursery," he added. "That wouldn't fly anymore, but you got to be around all these kids while the parents were bowling and that was a pretty great time."

Plaza Bowl

Plaza Bowling was opened by Stride's grandfather, Lawrence Stride in 1959. (CBC Edmonton )

The business was founded in 1959 by Stride's grandfather, Lawrence Stride, who got into the bowling industry after serving in WW2. He ran an alley in Grande Prairie for a few years, before setting up shop in Edmonton.

He ran the business until the mid-1980's when he handed the business over to his son, Terry Stride, Trevor's father.

'It's unbelievable that it's been maintained this well'

Not much has changed about the building since those early days. The cavernous basement alley, tucked away inside an assuming stretch of 118th Avenue, is in mint condition.

Entering the 16 five-pin bowling lanes, with their original wood panelling, marble balls and wool curtains, is like being in a time warp.

"It's unbelievable that it's been maintained this well throughout this time," Trevor Stride said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "My dad and my grandpa did an amazing job putting a lot of care into this place and it really shows when you come down here." 

Pin-setters, strikes and gutter balls

The senior Stride remembers those early days well. It was bowling's heyday and each night the alley would flood with so many customers the air would be a blue haze of cigarette smoke.

He started working as a pin setter in the alley at 14 years old, when ambling into the strike zone could be risky, especially if errant balls, thrown by overzealous customers, came barrelling down the lane.

When the balls started rolling, he would be hidden behind the pins, perched on a plank, with only a rickety wire mesh for protection.

Three generations in the bowling business1:22

"Sometimes it was an honest mistake," Stride said. "But if they got angry, and just as you jumped down to set the pins, and another ball whistled by you, you really couldn't get up and go after the customer."

Although he couldn't throw any punches, he relished getting even — not with his fists, but with a 'bad rack' instead.

"What you would do for the rest of the evening is, you would set the pins with the head pin back an inch or two for that particular customer," he said. "And that would pretty much prevent that bowler from getting a strike for the rest of the night … now that is some payback."

'He's bringing in a whole new perspective'

Childhood shenanigans aside, for the elder Stride, a soft-spoken man with a shock of white hair, it's the people that have kept him in business for decades.

But after 39 years, he's ready to trade in his bowling shoes for a cold pint and a warm patio. Though he can still be found at the alley almost every day, he's keen to see his son take over.

"I think it's fabulous," he said.  "He's bringing in a whole new perspective. He's appealing to a different demographic, and I think it's going to turn out quite well. I'm excited.

plaza bowl

The 16 lanes with their marbled balls and vintage racks remain in mint condition. (Plaza Bowl )

"But I'll still be coming in once and awhile to stick my nose in the door, to see what's going on and say 'Hi' to the people that I've met over the years."

The younger Stride, who just like his father, got his first job as a Plaza Bowl pin-setter, has not always aspired to take over the family business.

But he wants to keep it thriving for the next generation.

Three weeks since he took over, he's rebranded the business. He installed craft beer taps, is recruiting bands to perform and — with plans for a full kitchen in the works — has begun serving gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.

"It definitely makes it easy to be motivated because my grandfather and my dad have done such a great job of ensuring the sustainability of this business long term," Stride said. "It motivates me to try and do the same, bring the business forward and be an important part of that family legacy."  

With files from Alex Zabjek