MBA News: Darden Grad and Bowlmor President Talks Business Success

When Tom Shannon graduated from UVA Darden in 1992, he had no idea he would soon purchase a bowling alley—nor did he know that he would ultimately transform that single lane into the largest bowling franchise on the market.

As Shannon explains on the About page of the Bowlmor Web site, he attended a birthday party at the Greenwich Village establishment in 1994. Looking past the run-down lanes and building, the outdated ambiance, and the floundering business, Shannon could see an irresistible charm and rich history that made the brand worthy of revamping. He secured funding and purchased Bowlmor in 1997, then quickly began working toward his goal of “mak[ing] bowling cool again.”

To realize his dream, Shannon completely rebuilt the alley. He introduced impressive architecture, gourmet food offerings, upscale ambiance, lane-side dinner/drinks, large video screens, and fun glow-in-the-dark lanes. He also eliminated bowling leagues—a move that completely differentiated his company from its competitors. By 1999, Bowlmor had become the most profitable alley in the United States. Today, Shannon owns multiple locations across the country and recently announced a merger with AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc. Bowlmor AMF now represents 20% of the bowling market, making Shannon CEO of the largest bowling operator in the world.

To learn more about Shannon’s journey, business practices/outlook, and future plans, read his recent interview with the Wall Street Journal.

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