Certified school psychologist and mom Kelly Elliott never thought she would purchase and renovate a retro bowling alley, but as the now co-owner of Bowlero Lanes & Lounge in Royal Oak, she’s glad she did.
“My husband Dean is friends with the owner of (Detroit’s) Garden Bowl, Dave Zainea, and he brought the idea to us,” Elliott says. “At first I thought it was a crazy idea, but I’m really into retro and vintage design. I walked in, and there were a lot of structural repairs needed, so it was a massive undertaking, but I was taken with it.”
What’s special about the Royal Oak bowling alley, aside from its 1950s flair, is Elliott’s commitment to making it accessible for those with sensory differences, like autism. Bowlero has the Certified Autism Center endorsement through IBCCES, meaning the staff is highly trained to respond to autism-related needs.
“It’s one of those things I did every day at my job as a public school employee – I accommodate for people. Why wouldn’t I do that here?” she says. “We changed the entrance to make it barrier-free and added numerous ramps, including a bowling ramp.”
There’s also a bowling league for people in high school to age 26 with special needs on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Elliott says if someone older or younger were interested, they would “absolutely find a place for them.”
The space boasts 16 bowling lanes, a vintage arcade and a full cocktail bar.
“Now we have a long bar and people can sit at the window and watch the bowlers,” she says. “I’ve joked that if there are parents who don’t want to bowl but their kids want to, the parents can literally sit at the bar and watch the kids through the window.”
Visit Bowlero Lanes & Lounge
This retro-rad and accessible bowling alley is located at 4209 Coolidge Highway in Royal Oak. Its hours are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-midnight Thursday and 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Rates vary by day, charges are by the hour (not game).
Bowlero is planning “sensory days” that will include lower lights, lower/no music and availability of noise-canceling headphones, weighted blankets/vests, visual timers, pop-up tents for children who may be overstimulated, and designated break areas. Check ahead for dates and times.