BRISTOL, Tenn. — Two longtime friends and business partners are planning to open a duckpin bowling alley in downtown Bristol, Tennessee.
Chip Zimmerman, 47, and his business partner, Martin Robinette, 52, hope to open Pins and Friends in 2022 at the corner of State Street and Seventh Street.
The two men discovered duckpin bowling in larger cities. The closest ones are in Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Duckpin was hugely popular back in the 1920s and is said to have been one of Babe Ruth’s favorite pastimes growing up. It’s making a resurgence in the 21st century, especially in urban areas where space is limited.
Zimmerman said duckpin bowling features smaller balls, pins and lanes than regular tenpin bowling. The balls are 4¾ inches to 5 inches in diameter; weigh 3 pounds, 6 ounces to 3 pounds, 12 ounces each; and lack finger holes. They are significantly smaller than those used in tenpin bowling but are slightly larger and heavier than those used in candlepin bowling.
The pins in duckpin bowling are arranged in a triangular fashion, similar to tenpin bowling, but are shorter, smaller and lighter, which Zimmerman said makes it more difficult to achieve a strike. As a result, the bowler is allowed three rolls per frame, rather than the two rolls permitted in regular bowling.
After discovering duckpin bowling, Zimmerman and Robinette decided to open a facility in Bristol. They searched area properties in early 2020.
One day, the pair discovered space at 700 State St., which is next to Liberty Tax and Loans. The approximately 8,050-square-foot building, constructed in 1940, is narrow, making it a perfect location for duckpin bowling.
Zimmerman and Robinette decided to purchase the building and began planning to develop Pins and Friends. They worked with BurWil Construction to develop concept plans for the project.
The pair purchased the building in March 2020 for $290,000 — a couple months into the COVID-19 pandemic. The business partners hoped to begin work last year, but the pandemic kept construction from starting.
Zimmerman said work should begin soon.
The new facility will include multiple duckpin bowling lanes, a rooftop bar, restaurant, vintage arcade games and more. Zimmerman said he doesn’t believe the facility will have any competition along State Street and will fit in with other activities.
He hopes to work closely with surrounding businesses to host events along State Street — perhaps even a New Year’s Eve event at the busy intersection.
Plans for the project have not yet been submitted to the city.
According to Bristol Tennessee Director of Development Services Tim Beavers, neither permits nor building plans have been submitted to the city for the bowling alley.