Jim Lewis, owner of the new retail outlet on El Cajon Boulevard, Bowler’s Depot, has many fond memories of the Boulevard. San Diego’s Jewish community had a strong presence around the college area, and El Cajon Boulevard was known as their ‘Borscht Belt.’ Borscht is a beet soup, popular amongst eastern European Jews. During the mid-twentieth century, the Boulevard teamed with jewish merchants who owned delis, clothing stores, furniture shops, real estate, etc. The JCC (Jewish Community Center) was on 54th and University, and Jim grew up taking the bus every week down El Cajon Boulevard to his temple in Hillcrest.
Upon graduating from Crawford High School in 1980, Jim stayed in San Diego to pursue a college degree. He liked working part-time while in college, and found a great job at Kearny Mesa Bowl’s pro shop. Jim was well-trained in running a small retail store and learned the business of bowling, which includes drilling bowling balls, repairing equipment, and selling other gear associated with the sport. According to Jim, the best business education you could get is to actually run a small business. After two years, the man who trained Jim wanted to sell the business to him, and Jim and his father gladly accepted the offer.
For twenty five years, Jim built his business and opened six more pro-shops, and also went into wholesale distribution. One of his favorite accounts was Aztec Bowl, located at 30th Street and El Cajon Boulevard. To Jim, Aztec Bowl felt very much like a neighborhood center, and he tailored his efforts to meet the needs of their eclectic community. Although Jim admits that bowling has been on a steady decline, he credits bowling for introducing him to some of his best friends and his first wife, which provided him the most important person in his life, his daughter.
Today, Jim is a financial adviser, and he still holds onto two pro-shops, one in Reno, Nevada and a new one on the Boulevard. What Jim would like to do is transition Bowler’s Depot into a specialty embroidery shop. Embroidery is still very much associated with bowling, and outside of the bowling community, Jim believes that there is a large market for embroidered goods. In the meantime, Jim and his associate Andrea are investing in real estate in and around El Cajon Boulevard, because they realize that the Boulevard is centrally located within the City of San Diego, and is still the main thoroughfare in town. They understand that this area is still in need of rejuvenation and it might take some time for their investment to be fully realized.
In fact, Jim has a dream
of creating a bowling center on the Boulevard. With so little competition
in San Diego, a modern day center is bound to be a great asset to the community.
Jim understands that this is no longer 1953, “that the Cleaver’s
have gone home”, but that bowling is still a great activity, and with
some modern day amenities, we might have something to really look forward
to in the near future.