The Brooklyn Bowl Empire Expands


Photographs by Eric Ryan Anderson
When Brooklyn Bowl opened in 2009, in the northernmost part of Williamsburg’s north side, it was an outlier in just about every way. In those days, walking that section of Wythe Avenue seemed like an excursion to the ends of the earth. The scenery was comprised of industrial warehouses, disused docks, and expanses of blacktop filled with trucks and surrounded by razorwire. Sickly yellow light spilled out of lamp posts much too far apart for comfort.

This is where Peter Shapiro chose to open his family-friendly combination restaurant, bar, concert venue and bowling alley, with its spotless interior, charmingly distressed brick, candy-colored bowling balls, and huge wall of vintage carnival games. It wasn’t cheap, either, especially by the standards of Williamsburg at the time—a catfish sandwich was $14, a plate of mac & cheese $12.50, and a basket of pork rinds $9. He booked big bands, like The Roots, and waited for people to come and see them. It seemed like he’d made a huge mistake.

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