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Bowling Center’s Success Rooted in a Colorful Past

04
JANUARY 2020
BY REBECCA CALAPPI
LBN Community Series

Berkley

If it’s possible for a bowling center to have a personality, Hartfield Lanes has got one. And it all started with Harry Hartfield Sr.

The charismatic Harry owned a pool hall and a blind pig in Detroit during Prohibition. He did well for himself. So well, if fact, that the Purple Gang, notorious Detroit mobsters, invited him to join the organization.

Harry declined, saying he was doing just fine without the gang, and continued his professional growth. In 1944, he bought a bar in downtown Berkley and called it Hartfield’s, according to his grandson, Jeff Hartfield.

“They nicknamed it The Bucket of Blood,” said Jeff. “I don’t know why, but somehow it got nicknamed that. But then my father (Harry Hartfield Jr.) built the bowling center around the bar. He had to buy out residents’ homes. They built 16 lanes downstairs. The next year, they built 16 more lanes above that. Then the following year, they built 20 more lanes.”

It was the 1960s by then, and bowling was all the rage.

“You built a bowling center and you had a line out the door,” said Jeff. “Back in the early ’70s, we were the first house to have automatic scoring. By about ’75-’76, we had the most games bowled per lane in the country.”

Hartfield Lanes was a success.

Harry Sr. was part of that success until 1999, when he died at the ripe old age of 102. He lived in the apartment above the bar until he died and could frequently be seen in the bowling center.

His grandson attributes Harry’s longevity to being active at Hartfield Lanes.

“He was an avid pool player. He’d come out and talk to everybody,” said Jeff. “He’d come out and see some kids playing pool that didn’t know how to play. He taught a lot of the kids in Berkley. Some of those kids still talk about him.”

Today, Jeff, 59, runs the center with his wife, Linda Hartfield, and his son, Jeff Hartfield Jr.

“The bowling industry has changed. We went through the real rough period, but we’re on the upswing,” said Linda Hartfield recently. “It’s neat because so many people love bowling. Right now, it’s the season. It’s our busiest two weeks a year with holiday break. Everyone can bowl. That’s the neat thing about bowling.”

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Mary Mason has been the manager of Hartfield Lanes for three years.

“Right now, we have 19 employees who pretty much run the whole show,” said Mason. “They’re very dedicated, very loyal employees. Based on the manner in which the family treats the employees, people stay here.”

In addition to open bowling, Hartfield Lanes also offers league play, special-needs programs, glow bowling (bowling with the lights down and the music up), special events and more.

“We offer bowling parties, corporate, birthday, fundraisers, family reunions,” said Mason. “Glow bowling is specific to Friday and Saturday evenings. That starts at 5 p.m. and goes until 2 a.m. We get very crowded and we offer overflow upstairs. We have karaoke every Saturday night in our Hat Trick Pub from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.”

The Hat Trick was formerly known as The Bucket of Blood. The new name came about during the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup years, when the pub had a naming contest and one of the patrons suggested “The Hat Trick Pub.”

Perhaps the biggest draw for Hartfield Lanes is the location, right on 12 Mile Road in downtown Berkley. While many bowling centers are dying out, Linda says, Hartfield stays consistent with its ambiance.

“They’re definitely dying out and turning into entertainment centers,” Linda said. “But we have a local pub with karaoke. It’s kind of a ‘Cheers’ thing. The young people all walk or Uber. A lot of the girls get together to karaoke. We’re thankful where we’re at and keeping afloat.”

Four generations in, and the business is still strong. The vision Harry Sr. left for Harry Jr., Jeff Sr. and Jeff Jr. laid the foundation for four generations of Hartfields to entertain Berkley over more than 70 years.

“We’re fortunate we can make it work for us,” Linda Hartfield said.

Hartfield Lanes is open Mondays Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to midnight, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to midnight, Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to midnight.

3490 W. 12 Mile Rd.
Berkley, MI 48072
248.543.9338

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