Magazine article The Crisis

First African American Women to Open a Bowling Alley

Magazine article The Crisis

First African American Women to Open a Bowling Alley

Article excerpt

When Gail Richards and her niece Sharon Joseph launched Harlem Lanes in March, not only did they make history as the first African American women to own a bowling alley, but they also had former President Bill Clinton help them cut the ribbon on opening day.

In fact, the Harlem-based Clinton Foundation joined the Small Business Administration and other agencies to fund Harlem Lanes, a $5 million state-of-the-art, family-friendly bowling alley located in the heart of Harlem.

"I didn't realize, nor did Sharon, that we would be the first African American women to open a bowling alley," explains Richards. "It was more about being driven, about creating and manifesting our dreams."

The two-floor facility has 24 lanes, a sports bar, private party rooms, a full dining menu and a number of large flat-screen televisions. The lanes feature digital monitors and leather couches designed by Richards and Joseph.

The bowling alley is the product of the duo's determination to create a business that would appeal to Harlem's diverse demographics. Though their effort took four years, the outcome has been rewarding.

"Business growth has been extraordinary in the greater Harlem area over the last five years," says Lloyd Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, referring to major retail chains like Marshalls, Old Navy, Magic Johnson's popular movie multiplex and Starbucks. "However, we are especially interested in the boutiques and specialty stores. Harlem Lanes fits right into that thinking in terms of women entrepreneurs, Black entrepreneurs, and providing a unique service for the community that brings families together and creates recreational outlets. …

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