Valor Mentoring President Tim Davis with Ann and Don Lebold. Valor Mentoring took ownership of Town & Country last week (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
In 2009, Don Lebold's wife, Ann, approached her husband to talk about potentially selling Town & Country Lanes and retiring.
But there wasn't much of a conversation.
“He wouldn’t even talk about it. That was a moot subject,” Ann Lebold said.
It's easy to see why Don, who is now 81, was reluctant to sell the place where he spent most of his life. He started working at Town & Country in 1962 and has owned the Keizer bowling alley since 1967. It's also the spot where he first met Ann — who became more involved with the business in 1991.
But on Friday, Feb. 7, Don Lebold officially let go of the place he has run for more than 50 years.
Valor Mentoring, a non-profit organization in Salem, will be taking over operations at Town & Country Lanes. There will be a groundbreaking celebration at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
While Don was far from eager to retire, he has made peace with the decision — and he is especially glad that Town & Country will remain a bowling alley.
“The main thing that I am very pleased about is what it is going to be when I leave. We could have sold this a couple years ago and it would have been a car lot. But we want this to stay a bowling lane. We have always been people-oriented and kid-oriented,” Don Lebold said. “We wanted it to continue reaching out to kids, and they want to continue that same thing.”
Don and Ann Lebold's service to kids in the Keizer community has been no secret. Don was the one that started an in-school bowling program where he would bring portable lanes to elementary schools. Town & Country Lanes also is accommodating to those with special needs. It features bumpers on all 24 lanes and a wheelchair ramp for easy accessibility.
Don and Ann are also responsible for starting the Turnaround Achievement Awards in 1994, which recognize middle and high school students in the Salem-Keizer area who demonstrate effort, commitment and perseverance in the face of adversity.
It was no coincidence that Don and Ann sold the bowling alley to an organization that shares similar values.
Valor Mentoring is an organization that strives to contest the impact of fatherless ness by providing mentorship to young men through one-on-one relationships, community projects and music media.
The music media aspect is a big piece of what Valor Mentoring has to offer.
Valor Mentoring had a recording studio in the basement Salem First Presbyterian Church, which allowed kids to write and record their own music.
The studio at the church has limited parking and Valor Mentorship doesn't have 24-hour access to it, which is why the organization is thrilled to be moving their recording studio to Town & Country.
“We’re going to be able service 3,000 more young people per year because of this,” said Valor Mentoring president Tim Davis.
All 24 bowling lanes will be kept intact. But within the next two years, there will be a recording studio, a video production studio and a podcast studio all in the main lobby — all three will be soundproof.
“It’s definitely going to raise our visibility in the community. Music and media is what runs our culture, so our philosophy is that if you’re a young person who wants to learn how to make music, you first need to learn how to do it well, and that’s why we’re doing this,” Davis said. “This will be a state-of-the-art studio.”
The new studios are just part of the $400,000 renovation process. Offices will be moved upstairs and arcade games will be also moved to the second story for after-school tournaments — lottery will be removed from the location.
The restaurant will also be going through a renovation — although it will still be serving beer and wine. Additionally, it will feature a live stage that will host coffee-shop concerts and open-mic nights.
“Kids won’t have the chance to just learn music and media, they will be able to perform and be viewed,” Davis said.
“It will probably be the only bowling alley in the United States that has a recording studio,” added Don.
Don made an agreement with Davis back in the summer, but the process took several months to finalize.
“From an insurance perspective, it was a little difficult. Bowling is one quirky thing about insurance, but then you add in a recording studio, it was a search to try and find the right fit there,” Davis said. “But we trusted the Lord through the process.”
It's clear that the Lebolds believe in Valor Mentoring's cause, which is why they decreased the price to an undisclosed amount. Davis acknowledged that the Lebolds graciousness and and the generosity of Pioneer Trust Bank — who is helping finance Valor Mentoring — made the purchase possible.
“We’re doing a considerable sacrifice in order for this to happen. I had another offer where I could have made a lot more money,” Don said.
But it's never been about the money for the Lebolds. It's been about creating a positive place for kids and families, and it appears that legacy will continue at Town & Country.
“I think about all the kids that will be exposed to this place at one point or another and how God is going to touch their lives in some little way that will make a difference in their future. That’s what excites me,” Ann Lebold said.
“Every time you bowl here or buy a burger or play a video game, some of that money is going to go to mentor young people in this community. That’s a pretty good cause. We want to provide families an opportunity to connect with their children, because in our culture, that is not happening enough,” added Davis.