As part of our Q&A series, Morningsider brings you exclusive interviews with neighborhood “Insiders.” This week, we interview Sharon Joseph, co-owner of Harlem Lanes.
In 2006, after working as an advisor on Wall Street for almost 10 years, Sharon Joseph decided it was time to realize her entrepreneurial dreams and open her own business. Sharon’s passion for Harlem led her to take part in the area’s revitalization, opening Harlem Lanes with her aunt, Gail Richards. Not only is Harlem Lanes the country’s first black women-owned bowling alley, but the first bowling alley in Harlem in three decades.
Questions for Sharon:
Harlem Lanes is a 24 lane bowling and entertainment center. We have 25,000 square feet complete with a four-star lounge, sports bar, café, arcade and private party room. We offer catering and event planning for both adult and children’s birthday parties and a number of other occasions such as bar mitzvahs, corporate meetings and many more. Our affordable prices make it possible for a lot of people to advantage of our great entertainment services, as well as our event planning and catering.
2. What inspired you to bring bowling to Harlem?
A lack of interactive family entertainment in the community. We wanted to do something where young and old would have a place to get together and interact with each other and have fun. Not only did we want to create this family destination in the community, but we wanted to include aspects like the sports bar for people to come in and watch their favorite sporting events, and the party room to accommodate large family gatherings.
3. We read that Harlem Lanes is looking to establish itself as more of a neighborhood center than just a bowling alley. Has the community been receptive? Are businesses and organizations using your space for local corporate and community functions?
We do everything from hosting meetings and job fairs to movie viewings, fashion shows and political fundraisers. We are also a very popular location and big supporters of a variety of non-profit fundraisers.
4. We also learned that not only is Harlem Lanes the first local alley in about 30 years, but it is the first bowling alley in the US to be owned by African-American women. What a great accomplishment! What advice would you give to fellow Harlemites looking to open businesses in the area?
I would definitely say to make sure you have a good location and to also start out smaller rather than large – try to negotiate a competitive rent for your location, so you can set affordable pricing for your customers.
5. Aside from Harlem Lanes, what is your favorite Harlem hot spot?
I like a lot of places! Hue-Man Bookstore is one of my favorites. Marva Allen does a great job of bringing contemporary authors for locals to meet and greet and she’s done a great job as a community entrepreneur, bringing people together. I strongly encourage people to check them out. I also think that Harlem Vintage has done a great job of being a pioneer in the area by bringing such a quality wine store. Settepani is also terrific – I think Leah is another example of a great entrepreneur, being able to be adaptable to the economy and reinvent herself and her business is a great feat; I’m a big fan of hers. I also usually spend my time between Make My Cake, Tonnie’s, and Sylvia’s .
6. Do you have any specials or upcoming events you would like to share?
We have a really popular Friends and Family Four Pack of bowling for just $40 (not available after 8:00pm on Fridays and Saturday). Also, for the month of June we have a special birthday package – for $150 you and up to 10 people can enjoy 1 ½ hours of bowling! This includes shoes as well as unlimited soda and chips.
7. Anything else you would like to add?
I think the great thing about Harlem Lanes is that it’s an inspiration to a lot of other people, particularly kids, to start their own businesses. If you’ve got something you love to do, nothing is impossible. We are also truly a neighborhood space – we always make sure to accommodate our neighbors. There’s something for everyone at Harlem Lanes!
2116 Adam Clayton Powell Junior Boulevard
New York, NY