Company aims to fill family-friendly niche

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Don Smith couldn’t find a family-friendly bowling alley in the Columbus area, so he opened his own.

“I always enjoyed bowling and bowled a lot in leagues, but I noticed there was a general deterioration of bowling alley options in Columbus,” Smith said. “Moms and dads weren’t comfortable taking their kids into these dank, smoky places. So we thought we’d do something new and different.”

What Smith and his partner, the late Brian Stoner, developed was Rule 3, a family-oriented entertainment complex in Pickerington that includes bowling, arcades, pool, a restaurant and sports bar, volleyball courts and a patio area used for live music in the summer.

“We thought, ‘let’s bring bowling back with a light and fun place, with a true restaurant and sports bar so it’s fun for mom and dad and for the kids,’” Smith said. “We have these kid-oriented happiness zones and enough room for volleyball games going on outside, six birthday parties going on inside and people watching the Buckeyes and bowling, all at the same time.”

Since opening Rule 3 in 2009, Smith has been focused on providing that family fun experience.

“We’ve got about 65 staff members, and we’re in our third year of learning,” he said. “Meeting our customers’ needs and seeing those needs even before they do has been key to our success.”

As a longtime Pickerington resident and a central Ohio native, Smith said he understands how important the business and community relationship is.

“If you want your community to support you, then you better be a strong supporter of your community, whether that means getting flyers and brochures printed locally or something else; we try to choose people here in our area,” Smith said.

Rule 3 is supportive of the schools and community organizations as well. According to Smith, this is both a part of what he believes in and a niche for the business.

“We’re finding we’re a good niche for large local fundraisers because of our space and options,” he said. “We’ve gotten behind Lima Company, as several of their members are Pickerington natives. They do a memorial bike night fundraiser here.

“Another woman is organizing a local autism fundraiser and we’ll have a memorial and fundraiser for Terry McDowell, the fallen Whitehall police officer. We’re very proud to be able to support these events and glad to sponsor them.”

Rule 3 also sponsors several events for the Pickerington Local School District’s athletics teams, which is something Smith said he hopes to continue and expand.

“If I had it to do all over, I’d choose to do it right here in Pickerington again. I’m very proud to be here and extremely happy to be where we are,” Smith said.

For more information about Rule 3, visit www.rule3.com.

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