A Cup of Coffee: Imperial Bowling lanes land at Java Cabana

Remember bowling on these floors at Java Cabana?

Cooper-Young’s Coffeehouse has a new floor, and not just any floor.

Like most poets, I get a lot of crazy ideas in my head, and there’s just not enough room for them all. So sometimes I dismiss a few. But this idea made me restless and wouldn’t go away.

From the beginning, I dreamed of having a hardwood floor at Java Cabana, but it never seemed feasible. As a small business owner, I took words of wisdom to heart from the previous owner when I bought the café in 1998, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Besides, the idea of pulling up a floor that had been worn by twenty years of passerbys and committed patrons seemed a bit sad.

Admittedly though, over the years, there were caffeine-induced conversations about affordable ways to put in hardwood, maybe a Kickstarter, maybe one wooden square at a time. After all those cups of coffee, now Java Cabana has a floor made of reclaimed heart pine wood from Imperial Bowling Lanes. Isn’t that just dreamy!

Every week it seems someone new comes in and tells me how they use to bowl at Imperial Bowling Lanes, or that they learned as a child to bowl at Imperial Bowling Lanes, or that their grandfather loved to bowl at Imperial Bowling Lanes! When I hear people’s stories, it makes me realize how a place can hold onto memories for us.

When I was at the Best of Memphis Flyer party last year held at the old bowling alley, it was like a little voice whispered in my ear, Wouldn’t those lanes make a great floor for Java. Who knows really where an idea comes from; maybe this one came from all those memories held in that place that didn’t want to fade away. I am grateful I was listening.

I have to tell you, it was certainly an undertaking to pull up gutters, strip away synthetic surfaces to get to the original wood, to then cut , haul, and lift eighteen panels that were over 300 lbs and 2 inches thick each. There were many obstacles. Lots of dust. A smashed finger nail. Possibly some cussing. But mostly, hard work from loyal customers and dedicated friends: Mark Allen, Tim Allen, Robert Belanger, Bret James, Larry Stanley, Tony Steinberg, Jessica Puckett, Nicole Calhoun, Michael Allen, Andrzej Dabrowski, Roger Collis, Jack Armstrong, Brandon Goldsmith, Bobby Munns, and more. Amazing what a community can do together, whether it’s building a future or salvaging a bit of history.

Perhaps some things are meant to be, like the tradition, something old and something new. The bowling lanes were laid on top of the old Java floor. The lanes have brightened the café and found their new home. It is beautiful; the history, the bowling ball dents, and the soul of it are there for us to remember.

Now it’s about time for a cup of coffee.

Mary J. Burns

Mary J. Burns is the owner of Java Cabana in Cooper-Young.

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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