By Ann Marie Quill

Chris Albano, co-owner of the Stars and Strikes bowling venue in Sandy Springs, says the facility also offers laser tag, video games, a full bar and restaurant, and live entertainment.

Forget smoke-filled bowling alley hangouts. Bowling venues that are more than just alleys are popping up in the metro area in the form of upscale boutiques and family entertainment centers with some local entrepreneurs at the helm.

In Sandy Springs, North Fulton residents Jack Canouse and Chris Albano opened Stars and Strikes in December at 8767 Roswell Road, just south of the Chattahoochee in the North River shopping center.

“Jack and I each have three children and we just didn’t think there were enough activities [in the area] for parents and children to do as a family,” Albano said.

Meanwhile, in Buckhead, the 20,000-square-foot Painted Pin is slated to open in April along Miami Circle, offering an upscale entertainment venue with sophisticated dining and drink options, including wines, craft beers, signature cocktails and foods such as wood fired pizza, sandwiches and small plates meant for sharing.

Both are opening at a time when the Bowling Proprietors of America brag that more people take part in bowling than any other participatory sport. According to the association, modern venues require a variety of entertainment options and fresh menu choices in competing for disposable income.

At Stars and Strikes, Albano said that community response to the 51,000-square-foot facility has been good, but it’s not just the bowling balls and pins that are drawing in the crowd.

In addition to 20 regular bowling lanes, plus eight more in a “VIP area” for private parties, the facility provides a laser tag arena, a video game room, a 250-seat restaurant, a full bar and live entertainment. “We offer something for everyone,” Albano said.

William Stallworth, left, and Justin Amick are opening their upscale bowling alley in Buckhead this spring.

The Painted Pin co-owner Justin Amick grew up in the hospitality industry. His family owns Concentrics Restaurants, which develops restaurant concepts nationally, and he himself trained as a sommelier, or wine steward.

After working every aspect of the family business, Amick said he wanted to strike out on his own. After talking it over with a friend, William Stallworth, the two decided to open an upscale bowling and entertainment venue, combining Amick’s food and beverage experience with Stallworth’s sales and financial background.

“As a kid I can remember bowling on the weekends,” Amick said. But The Painted Pin will differ from the places Amick bowled in his childhood.

The two hope to attract young families and executives by featuring Old English décor, exposed brick walls, natural lighting and a dark oak bar. Bocce courts, shuffleboards, basketball pop-a-shots, a ping-pong room and skee-ball are among the extra amenities complementing 20 bowling lanes.

Stars and Strikes’ owners expect to bring 100 jobs to the area, while The Painted Pin plans to bring around 50.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said he’s especially excited about Stars and Strikes’ north Roswell Road location. “They are located in an area where we’re trying to get commercial activity generated,” Paul said, adding that such a business can help begin revitalization of an important commercial district, attracting more businesses if it’s successful.

Amick said he was surprised how easy it was to raise money for his and Stallworth’s venture. “Getting investors was one of the easiest steps,” he said. “They saw what a viable concept [The Painted Pin] was. We couldn’t have gotten a better response.”

A little less easy was the zoning and permitting process, as some retailers on Miami Circle, which largely consist of antique dealers, protested the traffic that would be created by the bowling business and the parking it needed. Amick ultimately obtained the needed permits, and hopes the retailers, along with local consumers, will see his venue as not just a bowling alley but an upscale boutique business.

“We’re reviving an old American pastime and presenting it in a new, modern way,” Amick said.