Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

Montrose Bowl’s More Recent History


Recounting the history of the opening of the Montrose Bowl has been really fun! I was contacted by the current owner of the Montrose Bowl, Bob Berger. Bob gave me his family’s history at the bowling alley, along with some great news: They’re beginning to reopen!

Bob writes: “I am the current owner of the Montrose Bowl. The bowling alley has been in our family since 1981. My parents ran the business for years with leagues and events. My parents knew nothing about bowling. Both had immigrated from Europe in 1952 (‘Germany and Yugoslavia’ as my mom always called her home country). Somehow they ended up with the Montrose Bowl in 1981, while I was a junior at Crescenta Valley High School.

“I moved back to help my dad in 2000 as he was battling some health issues. We were at a crossroads in our lives. The bowling alley seemed like a good fit until we figured out what we were going to do with our lives: stay and operate the bowl or move on. So my wife and I, with kids in tow, moved back to the Montrose area. It looked like we were staying.

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“In 2008, I leased the bowling alley from my dad. Perfect timing – right before the Great Recession! My wife, kids and I kept the doors open and did whatever we could to survive. In 2013, my dad passed away. Two years later my mom passed away. I had to buy out my sibling. This was 2016. We put in new A/C, plumbing, electrical, drains on the roof and a partial new roof, new sewer lines and, finally, new lanes in 2018. We now had the bowling alley working for us instead of us constantly working for it.

“As you know, the Montrose Bowl is used for events, parties, filming and a little bit of open bowling when time permits. We have one league from JPL with a few other teams from local businesses (Thee Elbow Room in Montrose and Campbell’s Automotive from La Crescenta) fill the league up.

“People from all over Southern California, actually from all over the country, come to the Montrose Bowl for events. We usually do 40-50 events a month. We have some families and company events that have been returning to the Montrose Bowl for 35 years. The bowling alley brings people from all over into the Montrose area. Most never even heard of Montrose, but they usually come back and eat or walk around the shopping park and come back for their own event. Most all of the local restaurants cater into the Montrose Bowl for events. Most weeks we bring 400-600 people to the Montrose area, half of whom have never been here before. What business in Montrose can say that?”

I asked Bob about the filming that has taken place at the Montrose Bowl over the years. He replied that several were [filmed] before his time at the alley, such as “Teen Wolf” with Michael J. Fox, “Pleasantville” starring Tobey McGuire and Reese Witherspoon, and “Frankie and Johnnie” with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. More recent have been Clint Eastwood’s “Jersey Boys,” a comedy “How To Be A Latin Lover” along with a slew of cable and TV shows. The place is a Hollywood celebrity magnet as well, and the walls are lined with autographed photos.

I also asked about the disappearance of the iconic bowling ball and pins mounted above the door.

“I took them down as they were falling apart and felt they were unsafe when people walked by. My wife wants me to put them back up [but I] have to make them more secure than they were.”

Bob related that the COVID-19 closures hit his business hard and he was running thin on reserves. He is now experimenting with open bowling on a very limited basis, forgoing his usual “events only” business model. Give Bob a call at (818) 249-3895 for availability.

“I know people would like us to be open for regular open bowling,” he said. “Well, maybe now there is a chance.”