By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was not too long ago that when twilight came to the town of Gibbon, they pretty much rolled up the streets.

“There’s no place to go,” said resident Tom Lindmeyer.

Nearing retirement, and after 13 years with a changing agriculture economy and a shrinking customer base, Lindmeyer decided to sell his eight-lane, landmark bowling alley.

“It just slowed down and kept getting less, and less, and less,” Tom said. “I had a person [who] wanted to build a warehouse out of it, which I didn’t want to see done either.”

But with the advent of the mega-bowling centers, the odds of someone buying an eight-lane alley in Gibbon looked pretty bleak — until a chance visit by former resident Greg Hartman.

“And I heard that the bowling alley was for sale and someone was going to turn it to a storage unit, and I said, ‘That can’t happen, that just can’t happen!’” Greg said.

He left Gibbon after graduating high school and moved west to Denver, where he enjoyed a 26-year career as a firefighter. But something struck him while he was home on his visit.

“And I got swarmed back into the small-town atmosphere,” Greg said.

code three bowling alley best of minnesota WCCO Viewers Choice For Best Bowling Alley In Minnesota

(credit: CBS)

So he made a phone call to his partner, Ann.

“He called me on the phone one night and said, ‘I think I’m going to buy a bowling alley [laughs]!'” Ann said.

“She goes, ‘Are you crazy!'” Greg said.

Tom and Greg struck a deal: Tom would show him the ropes of the bowling business for a few months, while Ann — with a background in marketing and event planning in Denver — warmed to the idea.

“We helped him figure out the name of the bowling alley and made pamphlets,” Ann said. “And slowly but surely I was drawn back in, and here we are.”

It was league night when WCCO visited Code 3 Bowling and Party, but it seemed like the whole town had showed up in support of the couple who kept their bowling alley open.

“It means that people got a place to go rather than going to a bar,” said resident Gary Schafer.

Two previous owners were in the crowd that night to show their support.

“A lot of these people I grew up with,” Greg said. “We got a great community here. It’s a small town. Love it, love it!”

Thanks to donated lane time to the high school, both junior varsity and varsity bowling teams went to the state tournament this year — which is certainly not lost on the coach.

“We’re not funded at all by anybody except ourselves,” said coach Scott Schwarzrock. “Without the bowling alley being open, these kids would never been able to experience that.”

In case you didn’t know, “code three” means drive with sirens and lights as fast as you can. Leave it to a fireman and his partner to save the day.

“This was a good investment. It was an investment in the community, not in the building or the balls,” Ann said.

We won’t go so far to say that Greg and Ann literally saved Gibbon, but there’s about 100 people that will.

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