Coming Soon: the Reopening of Montrose Bowl

The interior design of the historic Montrose Bowl has been updated in a 1950s style using beautiful green, pink and white colors.
Photos by Mary O’KEEFE


Last week the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley (HSCV) arranged for an informational tour of the recently renovated Montrose Bowl. HSCV is an organization that strives to keep history alive and historical places intact. Its members have been watching this famous Montrose landmark for a while and are very excited about its upcoming grand opening.

“This is great,” said Mike Lawler, former president of the HSCV.

The work done on Montrose Bowl is the type of development Lawler lives for – a business that is not being torn down or remodeled to the point that all of its history is wiped away.

When crossing the threshold of the new version of the Montrose Bowl it is obvious that its new owners understand what this historic place means to the community.

“We are really excited to open up this place,” said Robert Grigoryan, operations partner. “It has been a long time coming.”

Grigoryan estimated Montrose Bowl would be reopening “soon.” There has been a lot of work done on the property and it took longer than anticipated to complete. In an earlier interview Grigoryan said the interior of the building had not been updated since the 1980s/’90s. Plumbing and electrical equipment had to repaired, not including all the wall and floor repairs.

The property was purchased by Tzvi Ratner-Stauber. His family is well established in California, doing business in the San Fernando Valley since 1910. In an earlier interview with CVW, Ratner-Stauber said he grew up going to Montrose Bowl and when he heard the business was for sale he was concerned that a developer might come in and turn it into another business, so the family decided to purchase it.

“[Our family] loves Honolulu Avenue [but] we knew this was outside our comfort zone. This could be a passion project and not just [approached] from a landlord’s standpoint,” he said at the time of the interview.

Grigoryan also grew up in the area and had come to the Montrose Bowl for birthday parties. He also knows how excited everyone is to start bowling again.

The interior design is an updated, 1950s style in beautiful green, pink and white colors that brings a smile to the face of everyone who steps through the door. The footprint of the bowling alley has been kept intact and there will be a restaurant that will serve a vegan menu.

“We are going to have draft beer on [tap],” he added.

Draft beer will be offered in addition to a variety of bottled beer.

Montrose Bowl has a rich history that was shared by Lawler during the walk through.

“The bowling alley was built in 1940 by a local doctor,” Lawler said. “Bowling was a big deal.”

Back in those days the bowling alley had a lot of teams including Dr. Johns’ Squad (he was the doctor who put up the money for the purchase of the bowling alley), Huntington Iron Works, Gladding McBean from Glendale, Nitsche Service Station, Anawalt Lumber and Harry Slack Dodge Dealership (called The Dodgers), Lawler said.

Former HSCV president Mike Lawler holds a poster from the original opening of the Montrose Bowl.

When the Montrose Bowl opened there weren’t yet automated pin machines, only semi-auto pin machines, so pin boys were hired to load into a frame the knocked down pins.

“This was loud and dangerous work. It was not uncommon for kids to have broken fingers or ribs [while loading the pins],” Lawler said.

Local resident Joe Kroening knew the risk but applied anyway to be a pin boy.

“I had applied and was told I would be hired soon. Then those new fangled automatic pinsetters were installed and no more boys were need to set the pins,” said Kroening.

He joked he had been “aced” out of a job by advanced technology.

The bowling alley has been brought back to its former glory with much-needed improvements mixed with a nod to the past. There is a new updated ball return and new bowling balls; manual game scoring (no electronic scoring boards) will be kept.

The date for the grand opening has yet to be set but it will most likely be as big an event as it was on May 29, 1940 when Montrose Bowl first opened its doors.

“The first ball was thrown by Dr. Johns, who put up the money, and then had an exhibition trick bowling by Max Stein [who was billed as] ‘the famous Jewish bowler,’” said Lawler.

Stein is listed as being the winner of the American Bowling Congress (ABC) Championship in 1937. The first bowling national tournament was for the ABC in 1901.

Prior to the purchase by Ratner-Stauber, Montrose Bowl was owned by the Berger family.

“Many remember Bob Berger. His parents were immigrants from Europe, knew nothing about bowling, but bought the business in 1981,” Lawler said. “Bob came back to Montrose in 2000 to help with the business and bought it [from his parents] in 2008.”

Though the bowling alley had been open to the public for years it was mainly used for private parties and filming.

“There was a lot of filming here including ‘Teen Wolf,’ ‘Pleasantville,’ ‘Frankie and Johnnie’ and ‘Jersey Boys’ plus lots of network and cable television,” Lawler added.

Grigoryan said he has already been contacted by some production companies interested in the reopening of the bowling alley.

When it reopens, Montrose Bowl will be available to the public and, according to Grigoryan, from the time it opens to the end of the year anyone who buys a meal at the restaurant/bar will get a free game.

“As an appreciation to the community and to the support we’ve received,” he explained.