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Family Time

Six-year-old Tanner Bellomy is practicing his signature shot. In "The Tanner," as it will surely one day be known, the bowler lies on the ground facing the pins, spreads his legs, then pushes with all his might.

Judging by the way Tanner's friend, Vance Day, claps and giggles wildly, it might just be the funniest thing he has ever seen.

Scenes like this happen every day at Spare Time Recreation, which, even after more than 10 years, is still a hot spot for family fun.

It all started out, as the best things usually do, as a dream. Friends Greg Justice and Jeff Dillow had been all but born with bowling balls in their hands. The men had grown up together bowling, much like Vance and Tanner.

Dillow and Justice had wanted to build a bowling alley for 30 years, but they didn't get their chance until the early 1990s.

They found a location that had once been a bowling center, but had since been converted to a drugstore, with the lanes used as aisles, and the gutters as the spot for shelves.

Where some saw pharmaceuticals, Dillow and Justice saw opportunity, and they needed only financing to get the project on the way. Unfortunately, that proved to be a bit tougher than expected.

"We made an offer on the building, but it was a lot of hard work," Dillow said. "We went to several banks in the area before we found one that would give us the money."

Once Dillow and Justice took control, they began the hard process of refurbishing the lanes. Dillow is proud he and Justice did 90 percent of the construction work themselves.

By talking to other bowling alley owners they found out that it wasn't the most lucrative sport, and if they wanted to make it, they'd have to expand their business. After much discussion, the men settled on roller skating as a side business for the alley. Laser tag followed soon after.

Though Dillow had thought it would be just a fad, the laser tag arena has been booming now for nearly 10 years.

In fact, Vance's mom, Suann, coyly admits that she remembers going on laser tag first dates when she was just out of high school.

Now she brings her son Vance to Spare Time, and as a mother she really appreciates having a family-friendly environment to bring her child to.

"I think it's really nice for Ironton, for the kids," Day said. "I'm a second-grade teacher, so I see a lot of the kids in here, and it's really good for them."

As Suann talks, Vance and Tanner continue trick shot after trick shot. In fact, the only thing it seems like they can't do is decide who the better bowler is.

"Hmm, that's a hard one," Vance said. "Because we're both kind of good."

From the counter, Dillow watches the boys and smiles, maybe remembering when he was one of two little boys, with just a bowling ball and a dream.