Clay Clark is bringing Ruby’s Arcade to life just as duckpin bowling alleys are starting to disappear. In its heyday, duckpin bowling was a popular tenpin sport. There were hundreds of alleys across the East Coast.
The equipment is partly responsible for the game's decline. The game's key piece of machinery - the Sherman Pinsetter - has not been manufactured since the 70s. So, finding parts and maintaining the equipment can be difficult. Although Clay's timing may be ironic, his team would describe this "out-of-the-box thinking" as one of the keys to his success. He wants to be different.
When a bowling alley closed down near Baltimore more than two years ago, owner Clay Clark seized the opportunity to purchase the duckpin equipment and wooden lanes for Ruby’s Arcade. He bought 10 duckpin machines. Four of them have been deconstructed, cleaned, and put back together by arcade manager Chris Howdyshell. Chris had no experience working on the equipment, but he learned quickly by referencing a Shermin Duckpin Repair Manual that he refers to as “the Bible”.
Slated to open in late February, Ruby's Arcade will be the 5th duckpin bowling alley in Virginia. In addition to four duckpin lanes, guests will have their pick of arcade games: pool, ping pong, shuffle board, foosball and darts. The gaming tables are state-of-the-art and tournament ready according to general manager Mike Comfort. “There won’t be shuffle board tournaments in the beginning, but it gives us the option to think big and do some really cool stuff that isn’t being done downtown.” Guests can also request decks of cards, backgammon and checker sets at their tables while dining in.
Ruby’s Arcade is very different from its sisters businesses. The vision for the space is a loud, fun atmosphere with a retro and eclectic vibe. A lot of attention has gone into creating a unique space. “Clay isn’t just opening another business,” says Howdyshell, “He's creating a space that tells a story. ”
Many of the items in Ruby’s Arcade have been collected over time or repurposed and given new life. It’s these items that make up the story.
The original wooden lanes were cut up and repurposed to make the bar and tabletops.
The Face on the Wall
During demolition, Howdyshell found an old can of cleaner hidden in one of the walls. The face on the can was replicated by local artist Elliot Downs and now watches over the foosball table at the back of the arcade.
When you look around the space, there's one item that stands out. A working organ sits among the gaming tables. Why? You ask. Why not! Whitesel music removed the organ from a church in the area and offered it to Clay. Ruby's Arcade is the perfect home for it.
Food & Art
Clay Clark's business model for Clementine is food, art and music. These same core values have been infused into Ruby's Arcade. Wood-fired pizza and smoked meats fill the menu. And, murals line the walls.