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April 17, 2013

A proposal that bowled them over

Athens Bowling Center in line for AEDC grant

Athens — The Athens Economic Development Corporation Board on Tuesday heard presentations from the three finalists hoping to win a $30,000 grant to help jump-start their local business ideas.

Amit Desai was judged first place among the presenters with his plans to continue reviving the Athens Bowling Center located on West Corsicana Street. The board also heard from Pattie Carranza, who operates the Ice House Event Center, and Elizabeth Jenkins, launching a retail lipstick product called “Three plus One Color Perfection.” The board will review Desai’s proposal and announce the final decision on the grant at the May AEDC meeting.

The three won a spot in the finals by completing a six-week class for prospective startup businesses offered as a joint venture between the Small Business Development Center and the AEDC. A semifinal round was held on April 9.

Desai’s presentation included slides of the Bowling Center the way it looked when he bought it in 2011 and the way it looks today after spending more than $200,000 to remodel the facility. He said he knew little about the bowling business when he took over the operation, but soon learned that the quickest way to make the center successful was to rejuvenate league bowling. In 2012, participation in the leagues improved from just a few bowlers to filling all 20 available lanes. Desai said he hopes to eventually add two additional league nights.

AEDC President and CEO Brian Malone tabulated the board members’ scores for each of the presentations. Malone said the difference between the three contenders was extremely close. The consensus of the board was that any of the three would have been a worthy winner.

SBDA Director Michael Ellsberry said he was pleased with the six-week class and would like to repeat it twice a year.

“I’d like to expand it to eight weeks, because some of them need the extra time,” Ellsberry said.

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