Colonial Bowling Center (6601 Jefferson Highway, Harahan, 504-737-2400; www.colonialbowling.net) features 24 wooden bowling lanes, a pro shop, lounge, arcade, snack bar and recently renovated kitchen. Situated on land that once housed a grocery store and a Louisiana transit location, it's been a bowling alley since 1963.
"I put the first brick in this building with my grandfather," says Chuck Ferrara, who owns the business with his wife Gwen Ferrara and partner Edward Guidry. After an 18-year period of traveling and working in other businesses, Ferrara returned to Colonial Bowling Center in 1996.
Younger family members often work at the bowling alley for their first jobs. The Ferraras stress that they consider everyone who works for them family, whether they're genetically related or not. The Ferraras take pride in making the center a safe place to host summer camp groups, parties and bowling leagues.
The center also caters to people with disabilities. Ferarra's cousin, who has muscular dystrophy, inspired him to make the venue more inclusive and ADA compliant.
"We used to have a pit area, a step down. We eliminated all of that," Ferrara says. "Everything that we have is geared toward special needs groups."
Colonial Bowling Center hosts the regional Special and Senior Olympics bowling qualifiers. It also has a league specifically designed for bowlers with special needs, which brings in groups from all over southeast Louisiana. "It's rewarding to have them here," Ferrara says. "They enjoy it so much."
The Ferraras recently updated their menu with the help of chef Michael Auglair. "[It was about asking] what do the clients here want?" Auglair says. He offers standard snack-bar fare (fries, nachos, pizza) as well as made-from-scratch Creole and Italian specials featuring food sourced locally and from the garden on the Bowling Center property.
"I don't use any preservatives, so we make it in smaller batches," Auglair says.
"And it's working," Ferrara says. "We have a great lunch crowd. Sometimes, the people at night get upset when we run out of what we had that day."
Though they've renovated the kitchen, hired a full-time chef and updated the lanes, the Ferraras aren't done improving their business. They're installing 12 new beer taps in the lounge and hope to establish a sustainable gardening project with school children in the future.
"It's a life skill," Auglair says of growing the food he serves.