Women in Bowling in the Spotlight
Women have played a dynamic role in Pin Chasers’ 60-year history.
Four women—Barbara Phillips, former general manager and marketing director, her assistant, Patsy Lowrance, who managed the senior daytime leagues, Sheryl Schuler, former main daytime customer-service leader and bookkeeper, and the now-late Gloria Kissinger, bookkeeper— “made Pin Chasers-Midtown what it is,” said Bill Morris, former CEO. “They were responsible for daytime bowling for the entire decade of the 1990s.”
From the 1970s into the 2000s, Barbara Phillips was a pioneer in bowling leadership, serving as Pin Chasers’ first female general manager, president of the Tampa Bay Bowling Proprietors Assoc. and longtime board member of the Bowling Centers Assoc. of Florida.
She helped grow and develop the Turnaround Awards program (created in Miami to recognize teens who overcome major obstacles) for Hillsborough County school students.
“Barbara was more concerned with how we do things than with what we do,” said Pin Chasers’ CEO Anthony Perrone. “She looked at all sides of things and saw the bigger picture, what would work best for everyone. She was very customer-centric, bowler-centric, and wanted to give consistent treatment to all the groups. She was a volunteer coach at first—even teaching me to bowl, when I was five—and eventually became a general manager. She greatly impacted people in many ways.”
In addition, she influenced how Pin Chasers markets bowling.
Some of Barbara’s marketing ideas, which she brainstormed with Bill Morris, included adding a phone room, from which female seasonal employees called and invited people to join leagues; organizing Pin Chasers’ Millionaire Tournament which gave away cars as prizes; and helping to develop the In-School Bowling Program for elementary students.
Barbara oversaw the construction of In-School Bowling lanes from easily moveable materials, such as carpet. Employees carried the carpet-lanes and plastic pins and balls to the campuses for a six-week course. Then the children took a field trip to Pin Chasers to bowl with real balls on real lanes. This program, conceived and developed by Pin Chasers, is now used nationally.
After starting the school program, business picked up. Bowling birthday parties went from one or two a month to five or six per day on the weekends.
Many other women also have contributed to Pin Chasers’ success and longevity.
“Probably one of the most valuable employees Pin Chasers has had was a woman—Sharon Halling, our program director,” said Anthony. “She was an excellent bowler, having bowled on the ladies’ tour in the 1970s, and was passionate about bowlers and bowling. She was friends with everybody. She helped make Pin Chasers what it is, that when a customer comes in, it’s like they’re visiting a friend.”
“How we care for league, recreational and competitive bowlers, the benefits and features we offer, the way we see things through the bowlers’ eyes, the way we communicate with them—we owe all that to Sharon,” said Anthony.
In the mid-1990s, Sharon started managing the statewide Dot Ronnie Women’s Doubles Tournament. After Sharon lost her battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2006, Pin Chasers started the Sharon Halling Men’s Doubles Tournament for Florida bowlers in 2015, patterned after the Dot Ronnie, in Sharon’s honor.
Another influential woman is Sheri Wright, Pin Chasers’ chief administrator and financial administrator, who has been with the company for about 35 years.
“Pin Chasers couldn’t function without her,” said Anthony. “Bill calls her his ‘brain.’ She made sure he was where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to do. Sheri handles the detail work and works closely with my brother Michael (the CFO) and me.”
Sheri’s mother, the late Loretta Swan, was the bookkeeper and the only person kept on in 1986 when Pin Chasers bought the East Pasco center. Loretta was very important to Pin Chasers’ success. She was Anthony’s sounding board while he was learning the business, from 1997 to 2004, and informed him about everything at East Pasco.
Angela Hoover started as a birthday-party hostess in 1998 and is now in charge of financial administration for the two Tampa locations. She has grown up at Pin Chasers and is “a big part of our success today and with the next generation,” said Anthony.
“We have a network of people like retired Pin Chasers-Veterans bookkeeper Phyllis Nelson, who worked behind the scenes, making sure things get done, allowing us to do what we do and make things happen,” said Anthony. “Sometimes customers don’t know who they are, but they’re very important to our company.”
Elsie Pietz (of Crown Lanes, which became Veterans) was one of the first women who had a customer-facing job, and she was part of Pin Chasers’ early success. (Elsie’s son is Greg Pietz, who retired in 2018 after 44 years as the general manager of Pin Chasers-Veterans.)
Betty Fletcher was the original corporate bookkeeper for the entire company when the Palazzolo family owned it. Today, 60 years later, Pin Chasers still uses some of the processes she developed.
Kathe Vega managed Pin Chasers’ food service for about 30 years, building the systems used to inventory food and beverage and run that side of the business. She retired more than 10 years ago after working for the company for 40 years.
Women—inventing new procedures, teaching, managing bowling centers, volunteering, keeping finances in order, making bowlers happy, preparing fresh food and working behind the scenes—have helped shape Pin Chasers and kept it thriving for 60 years!