New owners have big plans for Gateway Lanes

Matt and Colleen Burton has taken over as the new owners of Gateway Lanes and the Lounge in Clare. They are shown here with children Lindsey and Reed Ashley.

Matt and Colleen Burton has taken over as the new owners of Gateway Lanes and the Lounge in Clare. They are shown here with children Lindsey and Reed Ashley.

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

All the same great events and a few new ones are coming at Gateway Lanes.

New owners Matt and Colleen Burton, who just took over the business from long-time owners Jack and Julie Gross, plan to expand the hours, the restaurant and the leagues.

They are planning to expand the restaurant to a full menu, start a new dart league and even open a new wine league.

They plan to continue the Gross tradition of supporting the community adding even more charity bowling events. “If anyone has plans, come and see us,” Colleen said.

They are going to continue to have Karaoke and D.J. Dancing on Friday and Saturday and this fall add it on Wednesdays as well.

They are keeping the name Gateway Lanes and most of the same faces will still be there, although Cathy and Bruce Roberts have just retired. Dean Smith, who has been with the lanes for over 34 years; Cindy Bedard, a 25-year veteran, JD Gross and Jacob Krocker will all still be at the Lanes.

Even Jack and Julie will still be around to help out, they said. Julie said she plans to continue planning and organizing the “Pee Wee Bumper Club,” for the little ones ages 3 to 6 years old that she started, now a special bowling event with automatic bumpers which are unique in the area.

Jack said he will help out at the Lanes wherever he is needed.

Matt isn’t a new face at Gateway Lanes. Jack and Julie have known him since he was 18 and spending time with their youngsters at the house and when he began bowling in a league at Gateway Lanes. He still bowls there and he and Colleen are in the Sunday couple’s league together.

The Burtons aren’t new in the community either. Colleen, a Registered Nurse at Davita Dialysis in Gladwin for 23 years, is a lifelong resident of Clare and a 1991 Clare graduate. He parents are Carl and Elaine Lake, former owners of the Clare Laundromat. She has a sister Regina (Mayle) of St. Ignace and a brother Carl of Farwell.

Matt, who moved to Clare in the sixth grade, didn’t come from far away. He moved from Farwell and before that lived in Coleman.

He has three brothers James of New Mexico, Rich of Clare and Tom of Pennsylvania and a sister Anna (Kneff) of Olivet. His sister Millie died this year.
The couple are raising two children, Lindsey Ashley, 11 and Reed Ashley, 7, and like the Gross children they will grow up helping Colleen and Matt out at the Lanes.

Matt, a 1990 Clare graduate, attended college at Mid Michigan Community College, first worked at the Lone Pine Restaurant, then was a manager for Continental Rental for ten years, managing Clare, Charlotte and Alma stores. He started “Short Bus Entertainment,” which he sold to present owner Jim Paetschow and then owned, with partner Last Life Games, “Jack of All Trades in Clare, which rented movies, games and coins. He sold his partnership and opened Jack of All Trades Coins in Mt. Pleasant which he still owns and operates.

In his spare time, besides bowling, he has been on several softball leagues (until age 40) and participated in several Volleyball leagues at the Hilltop and Moose Lodge.

Gateway Lanes has a unique history. “There was a roller rink in here once and there was six lanes,” he said.

Jack and Julie Gross came to Clare 35 years ago, when they and partners Jack and Beth Hurst bought Gateway Lanes from Pete and Tula Brown. They moved north from Port Huron where they were both raised. Julie said they met when she was only 13.

Jack and Julie bought out the Hurst’s interest in 1985.

Jack said he started bowling at age 7. As a teenager he said he was on a team sponsored by a local radio station in Port Huron team into the the All-Star Classic in Detroit. Some members of the league were past members of the PBA, and they had complete bowling uniforms including shoes and personalized bags.

In 1974 he won a singles bowling tourney in Detroit that had 10,117 participants, bowling a 763 series, the highest to date in that tourney.

A right hander, he broke his thumb in a softball accident a few years ago and started bowling with his left. “My high game is 279 and a 654 series,” he said. “I do occasionally throw gutter balls.”

Under Jack and Julie’s ownership, Gateway Lanes has accumulated a history of “firsts.”

They were the first venue in Central Michigan to host Karaoke nights, although Jack admits he never thought it would work. Of course it did. “It was great fun and we packed the place,” he said. Today Karaoke is popular all over.

They started the Best Frame Doubles tourney which is held on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. They started with a $150 first place prize. Now teams from all over the state participate and each year the event guarantees over $1,800 in prize money.

Over 15 years ago, they started sponsoring (and financing) teams from Clare and Farwell High Schools into the Tri-City High School Bowling Conference. “In those early years I was taking the teams to different conference meets in the Tri-City area,” he said, “After many meetings with school administrators, both Clare and Farwell have adopted bowling as a Varsity Sport and today all eight Jackpine schools have Varsity teams. John is coach of the Farwell team and Jeff coaches the Clare team.

Besides the Pee Wee Club, Julie has been in charge of the sanctioned Junior League at the Lanes for the last approximately eight years and has started a mini-league for seniors, ages 50 and up called the Senior Sunshine League.

Youngsters in the Junior League can earn “points” they can use after graduation for money to further their education. Some have won big and earned points toward scholarships. Jenna and father Jamie Betts placed first in the Family Doubles at state and went to the National Family Doubles Tournament. Allie Wood won the state singles. Rob Nichols and Russ Sian were winners of the Family Doubles Tournament.

Over the years, the Gross’s have been awarded the Key to the City for their community involvement and received State Recognition from State Representative Joel Johnson.

Julie, granted a USBC Youth Award for taking ten or more teams to state competition each year for the past ten years, has been invited to be a guest of the Michigan State USBC Youth at the Thirty Fifth Annual State Championship Awards Banquet on July 30th in Lansing where she will be honored and recognized for being the coach of a Tournament Champion.

Jack currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Bowling Centers Association of Michigan, the Heart Area Bowling Proprietors as Secretary/Treasurer and the Clare-Harrison Bowling Association.

Their sons John and Jeff grew up working at Gateway Lanes. “In the early days, if they were not playing a sport, the boys had to come to the lanes after school and clean, sweep, wash, and do things teenage boys would rather not do,” Jack said. “Those were important life lessons.”

These days, both boys have their own businesses. John is owner of Gateway Pharmacy, Eagle Pharmacy and the Harrison Family Pharmacy. Jeff is the owner of Tandem Specialized, a trucking company here in Central Michigan.

Jack and Julie say they are “blessed with seven grandchildren, six boys; John (JD), Jackson, Joshua, Jordan, Jacob and Jeffrey (JJ) and one granddaughter Rebecca.

“We have many memories at Gateway Lanes,” Jack said. We have met many great people and made many friends. We now move on to a new season in our lives, but we will always cherish our 35 years at Gateway Lanes.”

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