Robert Botts loved to bowl when he was growing up in Mount Vernon, and thought he'd like to own a bowling alley when he was older.

Robert Botts loved to bowl when he was growing up in Mount Vernon, and thought he'd like to own a bowling alley when he was older.
His dream came true last week when he and his wife, Rebecca Botts, took possession of the former Star Lanes, Carthage's bowling alley for the past 55 years, located at 219 E. Third St.
“I bowled a lot when I was young from age 12 to 18,” Robert Botts said. “I grew up in Mount Vernon and we had a bowling center there. My best friend and his family owned it and I was always fascinated by it and thought I'd like to own a bowling alley some day. The owner of that facility sold out and turned it into a bar and dance club so we lost our bowling alley in Mount Vernon.”
The Botts plan on changing a few things. The new name will be Grace Lanes, they plan to remodel and update the building and business, and alcohol and smoking will now be prohibited.
They also plan on using their business as a Christian ministry to reach out to people in the community.
“That's why we changed the name,” Rebecca Botts said. “We talked about keeping the name, but we want people to know it's a new environment, one that we've dedicated it to our faith. We've been praying about what God wanted us to do with the ministry. This is a great opportunity to minister to the community.”

Robert and Rebecca Botts live in Carthage.
Robert is an engineer at the American Ramp Company in Joplin, the business that builds skateparks around the country, including the one at Griggs Park in Carthage.
Rebecca is a teacher at Webb City High School.
Robert Botts said the two thought about opening a new bowling alley in Carthage four or five years ago, but they decided they didn't want to compete against Star Lanes.
“We thought well, we'll give it some time and see what happens, then this one came up for sale,” Robert Botts said. “Long story short, here we are. I've worked for everybody else all my life and I've always wanted to own my own business. I could have probably done something other than this to make a lot of money but we chose to do this as a business and as kind of a ministry. We're both Christians and we decided we could reach a lot of people in the community through this facility.”

The Botts said they plan some immediate physical upgrades to the business.
“It just generally needs to be updated, get it out of the 1970s and 1980s into the present,” Robert Botts said. The things we need to do immediately are the carpeting, ceiling tiles this weekend. We're jumping right in with both feet on some of this stuff. We're getting ceiling tiles, it's going to take some time to get them all in since there's about 800 of them. A lot of things like updating the emergency lighting and things like that, the city has asked us to do that immediately. We're running on a temporary occupancy permit until we get them done and the only way to do them was to do it after we own it, come in and do them.”
Longer term, the Botts want to replace the arcade games near the front door with another pool table and maybe an air hockey game, replace the wooden railing between the lobby and the bowling lanes with something more unique and remodel the bathrooms.

No smoking, alcohol
The Botts said by far the most controversial decision they've made was to go smoke-free and alcohol-free.
They said some regular customers have pushed back against that decision, but they're standing by it.
“We just believe we may lose a few people that are dead set on drinking and smoking when they bowl,” Robert Botts said. “With the website and the facebook page we've had overwhelming positive response with what we're trying to do.”
“There's also a health aspect,” Rebecca Botts said. “We all know that smoking is not good for you. We don't want in any way to do anything that's harmful to the health of anybody. And we want more kids in here, we want more families and kids in here.”
“We want them in here and we don't want them to leave smelling like smoke,” Robert Botts added. “I truly believe the business has dropped off here through the years because of smoking and drinking.”