When George Gilbert applied for a bank loan to start his own bowling alley in 1959, he was prepared to be flexible on everything but its name. George Gilbert was dead set on naming the alley after a street he drove down every day—Sunset Lane.
Sunset Lanes Bowling alley has been a family affair ever since.
Teri Perkins, general manager at Sunset Lanes, said George Gilbert, her grandfather, met his future wife all those years ago when she worked at the bank and granted him the original loan to fund the alley. When Gilbert applied for the loan 55 years ago, he didn’t know he was on the path to not only starting his own business, but a romance.
The bowling alley began with eight lanes and eventually expanded to 24. Other aesthetic renovations were made over the years after George Gilbert retired and sold the business to his son, Gary Gilbert.
“My grandfather was afraid to update because he did not want to run off the older people who have been coming here for a long time,” Teri Perkins said, adding they would like to open another location soon.
According to Teri Perkins, her grandfather and grandmother began the alley’s junior league by transporting local students in buses to bowling classes.
“My grandfather would work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He would run the front and the snack bar,” Teri Perkins said.
Fundraisers have become a frequent occurrence at Sunset Lanes, as the managers understand giving back to the community is a key aspect of owning a local business.
“We just donated 100 pounds of food to the Hays County Food Bank,” said Ray Perkins, daytime manager and Teri’s husband.
In addition to being the only bowling alley in a rapidly growing town, Sunset Lanes is home to Texas State’s bowling classes.
Teri Perkins started working as her mother’s assistant at the bowling alley in 2001 and started teaching classes on her own two years later.
“It’s fun to meet new people every semester,” Teri Perkins said.
Teri Perkins said she loves that the bowling alley has been open and maintained by the family for 55 years.
“Our son bowled a 148 with no bumpers at the age of 3,” Ray Perkins said with a smile.
The Perkins family agrees that both employees and customers have come to feel like family throughout the years. Ray Perkins said he did not know many people when he first started at the bowling alley. Now, most of the town knows him, he said.
Past employees will frequently come back to bowl, as well as customers who have not been bowling in a while, Ray Perkins said.
“When I first started there it seemed like everyone knew each other very well,” said Jean Horvilleur, Sunset Lanes employee. “It has a sense of family and a homey feel.”