2012-11-28 / News

Family is key ingredient in Uphoff venture

By Michael Buettner

The new Uptown Alley, co-owned by Steven Moore (from left) and Steve Uphoff and managed by Jimmy Cabanban, will serve a full menu, including its signature Uppy Burger, made with a pound of hamburger meat. 
Page Dowdy/Chesterfield Observer The new Uptown Alley, co-owned by Steven Moore (from left) and Steve Uphoff and managed by Jimmy Cabanban, will serve a full menu, including its signature Uppy Burger, made with a pound of hamburger meat. Page Dowdy/Chesterfield Observer Underneath the shiny, 29-foot bowling pin and behind all the flash of video games, bigscreen TVs and black-light bowling lanes, the heart of Uptown Alley is the Uphoff family.

The brand-new entertainment complex in the Commonwealth Centre area off Hull Street Road opened for business quietly last week and has scheduled its official grand opening for Dec. 6.

On a pre-opening tour last week, the 38 high-tech bowling lanes, the dozens of bigscreen TVs and the more than 60 video games throughout the two-story complex certainly were attention-getting.

But in talking with owner Steve Uphoff – the founder of the Chester-based Uppy’s convenience-store chain – it’s quickly evident that there’s a strong element of family and tradition underlying the concept.

For starters, there’s the Uphoff Rotunda, a bar that seats more than 100 people. The name, Uphoff explained, commemorates a restaurant his parents owned for many years in his native Wisconsin. It offers 24 draft beers, including six brewed locally, along with a wide selection of wines and specialty drinks.

Then there’s the Uppy Burger, which was a feature of his parents’ menu. Uphoff had continued that tradition at one of his earlier ventures, Uphoff Family Restaurants, but it fell off the menu at his Uppy’s stores because, he said, “It’s just too much work to make at a convenience store.”

The burger comes in three sizes – original, big and biggest, the last of which includes a one-pound stack of red meat. Anyone who can eat the whole thing will get a free game of bowling.

Family ties are also reflected in the ownership of Uptown Alley.

Uphoff’s two co-owners are his son Steve and son-in-law Steve Moore.

And of course family is an important part of the customer base the business hopes to attract with its 57,000 square feet of dining, drinking and playing space.

In addition to the Rotunda bar, the complex includes:

• A total of 38 bowling lanes with stateof the-art equipment and scoring systems provided by Brunswick. The lanes feature 15- foot projection HDTVs and are equipped for black-light parties and offer gutter bumpers for beginners. The 14 alleys in the upstairs Rotunda area can be curtained off for privacy, while the 24 alleys downstairs will host league bowling and are available for private or corporate parties. Adjacent conference/ banquet rooms are also available.

• More than 60 top-end video and prize games. Players can accumulate points on a card and exchange them at the prize store for items ranging from stuffed animals up to iPads and home video game systems.

• A full-service restaurant, Red Embers Bar & Grill. Uphoff said he envisions it as a five-star operation. The adjoining dining area seats 220 people, but meals can be ordered throughout the complex, including a large outdoor terrace off the Rotunda area. The menu offers a range of entrees, all under $20 and most under $15, ranging from barbeque to pizza and pasta to gourmet sandwiches.

Getting all of those elements together under one roof was a complicated job, according to Terry Wyllie, the architect with BOB Architecture in Richmond who designed the building, including its interiors and the distinctive bowling pin on the roof.

“It’s been a long, long process,” Wyllie said. “There were a number of consultants we had to work with.”

With that process complete, Uptown Alley is already looking for ways to be even more attractive as an entertainment and party destination.

Jimmy Cabanban, general manager of the complex and a former director of operations for TGI Friday’s, said the business plans to feature live entertainment on weekends in the near future. “We’ll be having bands on weekends, and we’d like to get a comedy night going, maybe after the holidays,” he said.

Cabanban said he’s working with a music agency, East Coast Entertainment, “to bring in some big-name singers.”

In addition, in keeping with the family theme, Uphoff noted that his son owns a recording studio in Chester and has a band of his own that will be performing at Uptown Alley.

Co-owner Steve Moore said the company hopes to be close to the local community in a variety of ways and noted that they’re working with the Chesterfield County Police Department to provide security inside the venue.

“We want people to feel safe here, to have fun here, to make Uptown Alley part of their lives,” he said. “We’re really excited that people are finally going to come in here and see what we’ve done.”

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