When most people think of bowling alleys, they don’t picture leather couches, high-end food and a full-service staff. That is precisely why Chris Angel ’91, does not refer to his business, Sparians, as a bowling alley.
“We prefer the term ‘bowling boutique,'” he says. “You won’t find any frozen pizza or hard plastic seats here. And we like it that way.”
Angel, who spent more than 15 years in the software sales industry before launching his business, had more than a dozen potential ideas before settling on the idea of a high-end bowling venue. Along with his business partner, Alan Fluke, they opened Sparians in December 2010 in the North Hills area of Raleigh. Sparians offers 12 public bowling lanes, a family-friendly sports bar and three suites with six additional lanes available for corporate or private events.
The customer base is varied, and includes families with children, college students and young professionals.
“About half of our business is from corporations,” Angel says. “We have a big meeting space – complete with a podium – that companies can rent out. They can hold their meeting, grab lunch afterward and then spend the rest of the afternoon bowling or enjoying the other entertainment options we provide. It’s one of the few, if only, places around that you can do that.”
The sports bar features several large screen televisions to showcase various sports broadcasts, and is a frequent meeting spot for alumni groups and sports team fan clubs.
“People like coming to Sparians to watch the games because it is one of few sports bar-like places where you can feel comfortable bringing your children,” Angel says. “While you are watching the game, your kids can be playing video games or bowling. It’s a really nice, safe environment to bring your family.”
Angel and Fluke are managing a second location of Sparians, in Charleston, S.C., owned by another NC State alum, Randy Bates, and have plans to expand further.
“There is definitely a market for this type of entertainment venue,” Angel says. “We’d like to own a few locations ourselves, but we’re also in the process of licensing our brand and hope to offer franchise opportunities around the country. What we’re creating is a fun, interactive entertainment experience. It’s a fun business to work in and we’re enjoying it.”
— Caroline Barnhill ‘05
Sparians is one of dozens of vendors – including restaurants, farms, breweries, wineries and bakeries – participating in the Red & White Food and Beverage Festival during the week of homecoming. All of the vendors have NC State connections, with alumni as owners or managers. The festival is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1, at The State Club in the Park Alumni Center. Visit the festival website to register and see a full list of vendors participating.