Meet Your Merchant | Retired bowlers serve fun at Tahoe pub
January 15, 2014
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Jim and Gina Poulos' past lives as bowlers often get downplayed in the hustle and bustle and busyness of running a restaurant.
Jim, a retired professional bowler, and Gina, also a highly ranked competitive bowler, not only met in a bowling alley as teenagers, but later ran and operated a bowling entertainment center in Sutter Creek.
"When you do something for a living and you do it all of your life, it's nice to do something different," Jim said of retiring from bowling.
Most of Jim and Gina's time now is spent not at the alley, but at Crosby's Grill & Pub, the restaurant and bar they bought in 2000.
“It’s like a Cheers atmosphere. You see people pull up and you start making their drink.”
The large locale, a mainstay at the west end of the Christmas Tree Village, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week, and the Pouloses run a catering business as well.
"It has kind of morphed into five or six different things," Jim said of Crosby's.
The annual party on St. Patrick's Day makes Crosby's somewhat of an Irish pub, and many of the locals think of the bar as a hangout spot.
"There are friendly people who smile and make you feel part of the group," said Diamond Peak ski patroller Mark Kaminsky.
Originally from Carson, Kaminsky works in Incline during the winter and has been making Crosby's a regular stop for a few years.
"It's not uncomfortable coming here and eating alone because here's Kyle, Michelle, Angelo," he said, referring to the staff. "They all come by and visit with you."
Michele Maher has worked behind the bar at Crosby's for six years and said the menu's variety and the assurance of seeing some familiar faces is the reason clients keep coming.
"It's like a Cheers atmosphere," she said. "You see people pull up and you start making their drink. … We're pretty Mayberry," she said, referring to the small town in The Andy Griffith Show.
To thank their customers, Crosby's offers a rewards card with a giveback of 10 percent. After spending $200 at the restaurant, members receive a twenty dollar gift certificate.
The Pouloses like to give back to their regulars as "a way to keep in touch with (our) customers," Jim said.
"And for their patronage, we can give something back besides our good service," he added.
On Feb. 2, 2014 — Super Bowl Sunday — avid fans and faithful locals will fill the bar for the annual party put on by Crosby's. The restaurant bar has 11 HD televisions for the big game.
"There is a full buffet dinner at halftime and we have some great giveaways," Jim said. "It's always a great party."
Whether it's the big game or any game, Jim said he is sure to have it at Crosby's.
Being sports fans themselves, Jim and Gina get to watch their teams while at work. Keeping a relaxed and easy-going atmosphere keeps Crosby's fun for owners, employers and customers.
After all, the slogan at Crosby's is: "We Serve Fun!"
"If you try to enjoy something and make it fun, make it upbeat, it all comes full circle, in work and in life," Jim said.
BUSINESS, ECONOMIC CHALLENGES
Running a business isn't all fun, of course, and Jim said changes in the industry have led to major changes in his business.
The Nevada Clean Indoor Act of 2006, which banned smoking in many indoor spaces in Nevada, was a major challenge to business.
Crosby's lost customers at first, Jim said, yet gained new ones who were once opposed to spending time at smoky bars.
"In the beginning it was tough, but in the long run it's certainly a good thing, especially health wise for our customers and employees," he said.
Jim said today's high variety of spirits and the new technology of gaming has also led to changes.
"You have to evolve or you're not going to stay around too long," he said. "And that's any business."
Jim and Gina couldn't imagine doing anything else. The long hours and the late nights don't deter them from doing what they love.
"We've been always been around the food service," Jim said.
The couple's experience in food and restaurant dates back before the bowling entertainment center to work in grocery and produce.
Working for themselves was always a goal in mind.
"We enjoy making our own decisions and we enjoy getting things done," Jim said.
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.