Jim Malone is converting old bowling lanes into countertops for Starbucks and Shake Shack, reports Ben Fox Rubin in The Wall Street Journal (9/25/13). Jim is a former singer-songwriter who turned to his woodworking hobby after his career in music tanked. His inspiration was "a slab of bowling-alley heart pine" that he found at "reclaimed-wood shop" and turned "into a countertop for his former Lower East Side apartment." "I was amazed at how good it looked," he says. He soon decided to try to make a business, called CounterEvolution, out of it.
He didn’t sell much for about a year because it was 2008, but "in 2009, he signed on his first major client, the Sweetgreen salad-chain; Starbucks wasn’t far behind. Shake Shack came on later that year and have since become CounterEvolution’s biggest client." "When we saw Jim’s tables, we thought, ‘This is a table you’re going to want to sit and stay at,’" says Shake Shack CEO Randy Gartutti. "It has a story. It had a life before it came here."
It also had a death, of sorts. Bowling – especially league bowling – "has fallen out of favor." Currently there are just 5,000 "certified bowling lanes centers in the US," and of those "just 22 percent … have wooden lanes" (most are made of synthetics, because they’re more durable). As alleys with wooden lanes close, they give Jim what he needs to grow his business. His next move is "to open a retail space in the Flatiron District in December, and expand into other reclaimed materials." "I may not compost, but I’m definitely doing something that has a positive impact on the environment," he says.