The Kassis family is investing $750,000 to keep Arden Arcade's Country Club Lanes at the top of its game, and if you think the name of the game is bowling, then you need to visit 2600 Watt Ave.
Per square foot, Country Club Lanes grosses more money on laser tag than it does on bowling. Known as a family entertainment center, it also offers game arcades, billiards, a sports bar, party packages and a reception hall. General manager Dave Haness has been running Country Club Lanes since 1977, and he meets weekly with first cousins Greg and Jim Kassis to discuss strategy.
Because the center fares so well with private parties, management plans to offer something customers have long wanted a private room with its own lanes and a bar. They'll create the space around four of the center's 48 lanes.
The Kassises are also installing new pin-setter equipment in 16 of Country Club's 48 lanes in August. It's the first time they've replaced this equipment since opening in 1960, they said, a tribute to two skillful mechanics on the staff since the early 1960s.
"The manufacturer no longer supports the equipment now," Haness said, "so we can't get parts. In the last 10 years, we've probably gone on 15 road trips in a U-Haul going to places that are being shut down. We go and buy the old parts."
The new equipment will have a string attached to each pin, and after balls clear the pin deck, the machine will lift the pins and reset them on their marks.
The equipment can't be used in sanctioned league play, Haness said, but the old equipment will now provide replacement parts for league-sanctioned equipment in other lanes.
Other changes include a makeover for the front lobby and construction of a mobile stage that can sit over four bowling lanes.
Customers are already seeing portions of the $750,000 remodel: new bowling lanes aimed at luring league bowlers and 11 new projection screens for music videos and sporting events.
"A lot of times when we get a popular music video on, people stop bowling," Haness said. "They'll be dancing in the bowling area or dancing on the concourse. ... When little kids have birthday parties, they really get into it."
Over her 27 years as dog trainer, Val Masters has created lots of homemade devices to exercise them and to teach them to retrieve, fetch and release.
When the creators of the Woofstick brought her their product to test, she knew they had a winner, and she encouraged them to get it on the market. The Woofstick features a rigid pole, a flexible cord and a dangling toy.
"We use it to teach the dogs how to fetch," said Masters, the community services director and behavior specialist at Sacramento SPCA. "You throw it out. You say, 'Bring it.' And, then of course, you can make them bring it because you've got the line.
"And then we also work with teaching them to drop. We reel 'em in like a fish. Then you have a way to get that toy back to you because it's attached."
Inventors Larry Jacobs, William Townsend and Michael Kennedy took Masters' advice and took the product to a convention of dog trainers last fall.
"We went there with about 50 samples, not really knowing what to expect," Kennedy said, "and when the doors of the trade show opened, people just flocked right over to our display area and we sold out all of our samples in the first half-hour. We were shocked, so we basically took orders for the rest of the two days and sold a couple hundred of the Woofsticks."
The product is now rolling out to 500 pet stores around Northern California. It's also available at woofstick.com for $39.95. If purchased at the Sacramento SPCA, a portion of proceeds go to the group.
Penny Farthing grows
Malcolm and Nancy Howe recently doubled the size of The Penny Farthing, the antique store they opened at 110 L St. in Old Sacramento a year ago.
Careful readers of this column will recall Malcolm Howe, who traveled the globe on assignments as a security official in the British diplomatic corps. He and his wife immigrated to the States after his retirement, and they brought a wealth of items they'd accumulated on their travels.
"What we've done is take over the store next door," said Malcolm Howe. "We put in an archway to join the stores together, and because of the extra space, what I've done is partner with other dealers. One is an expert in vintage jewelry, and another one specializes in books. It just gives the store a little more diversity."