YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – From the outside, Westside Bowl is an eclectic mix of art, from the mural on the side to the Youngstown painting out front. The marquee along Mahoning Avenue explains what’s inside: bowling, music, pizza and booze.
“We talked back forth about how it would be fun to own a music venue,” said Nathan Offerdahl.
The “we” in this case refers to owners Nathan Offerdahl and his wife Jami.
“We had talked about it for years. For 20 years we talked about doing something like this,” Jami said.
In 2015, the Offerdahls decided to make their dream a reality, but it was three years of intense small business planning.
“All of this taking considerably longer than I and my wife ever thought it would,” Nathan said.
That led to March 7, 2018, and the buying of the former Gran Lanes and making it Westside Bowl.
“We started March 9. By the end of March, we had our first show downstairs,” Nathan said.
The downstairs room is small — for concerts of 200 people. To help with the acoustics, the walls and ceiling are lined with foam-covered T-shirts. The room has been very successful.
“We do shows… probably 60 percent of what we do, we do down here,” Nathan said.
Upstairs, there is still bowling but at one end, a series of lanes were cut in half and made into the main concert stage. The venue is big enough for 1,200 people.
“Band members that come in here from out of town remark on how they wish they had a place like this where they’re from, and that’s one of the things that makes me the most proud,” Nathan said.
Westside Bowl made it through COVID-19 with a pay-it-forward pizza plan. The band “Rebreather” bought 10 pizzas to be given away and others then followed suit. Eventually, 7,000 pizzas were paid for and given out.
“If we didn’t have that carryout business coming in so that we had a lifeline to pay our bills, I don’t know that we would have made it,” Nathan said.
Last night, the Offerdahls were at a concert in Cleveland where they witnessed their success firsthand.
“We must have had 25 people come up to us and say, ‘You’re from Westside Bowl, you’re Westside Bowl! Oh my gosh, I love that place,'” Jami said.
“If you’re asking me if I’m proud of what we’ve done in just under four years, immensely proud, immensely proud,” Nathan said.
If the success continues, Nathan said he does not plan to take out more lanes and make the main stage bigger. Why? He said a bigger venue would bring in bands that are more “rock star” than what he wants to deal with.