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By Nona Tepper
The late Bonnie Stutz was the iconic office manager at Circle Bowling Lanes, which her family has owned since 1985, but she was also a visionary, dreaming and then implementing recent renovations to the facility, said Marty Considine, manager of daytime operations at the alley. The business continues to be family-owned, Considine said. Grandson Drew has "pretty much taken over" the 77-year-old alley.
"With every other bowling alley in this area closing, we're the only dinosaur left," Considine said. "We were outdated and now it's updated; it went from dull and dingy to bright and lively."
In June, Circle Lanes got a new paint job, its first in at least 40 years.
Stutz began organizing the repaint job in November 2017, talking with Paulson's Paint about the colors she liked, even splashing some on the ceiling and walls to help her choose between the three schemes she had planned. She went with blue for the walls, white for the ceiling and a rainbow backsplash behind the pins.
But just weeks before workers were set to scrub Circle Lanes, Stutz, 75, came down with pneumonia, entering the hospital the night of Memorial Day, Considine said. On June 8, she died. Her family planned a quick service at Zimmerman-Harnett Funeral Home.
"It was devastating," said Considine, who has worked at Circle Lanes on and off since 1988 and full-time for the past eight years. As Stutz aged, he said she continued to come into the alley almost every day, sitting in the same corner and bringing in homemade brownies at least once a week.
"She did a lot of things for us; she was a very good boss, family to me," he said.
A day or two after she died, the Circle Lanes repaint was complete.
The once off-white and brown walls have been replaced with three tones of blue, which Considine compared to an aquarium, taking two days to paint. The red and brown back splash behind the lanes is now a riot of colors, with an image of a firey bowling ball, shoe and hand guiding their path. The cork ceiling was the big event — taking 119 gallons, four days and two coats of white paint to completely cover the old color.
"The guys who did it said they don't use this much paint on north Oak Park Victorian homes," Considine said.
The repaint job follows a series of renovations that Stutz initiated, which Considine estimated started around 2011 with the installation of electronic scorekeepers. Then the business' sign was changed to a vertical red-and-black slate, from its neon predecessor. Brand new countertops, carpeting and floor were installed. The heating and air-conditioning units, roof and coolers were replaced. Workers painted the shiny lanes.
Considine said Stutz would make lists of improvements she wanted for the business, save her money all year and then every summer, typically Circle Lanes' slow time, upgrade the alley. After new security and fire alarms were installed the first week of August, he said work will probably be done for this summer, but he's sure there are items on Stutz's list left for next year.
"She's looking down and feeling proud," Considine said. "That's what she wanted. Before she left us she had all these ideas and plans in her head, and now we're fulfilling them."