Normandy Lanes manager offers bowling fun to spare

Boss: Carol Malinowski uses great people skills and business sense to keep the bowlers happy and the balls rolling.

Howard At Play

April 04, 2004|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Carol Malinowski's ascent to the title of general manager at the Brunswick Zone Normandy Lanes -- a landmark on Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City -- started quietly enough a little more than 30 years ago.

Then, Malinowski often went to the relatively new facility to watch or bowl with her husband, Tony. Malinowski also loved to watch her two children bowl, and slowly, she recalled, she began helping with the kids' programs as a volunteer.

But Malinowski quickly was offered the post of program director, a part-time job. That turned into full-time work, and, after about nine years, she found herself becoming general manager in the early 1980s.

Now in her 31st year at Normandy, Malinowski said she still loves coming to work every day and operating a bowling alley.

She always liked bowling, she said, but she really savors the friendly and open atmosphere that the activity brings.

"I always enjoyed just being around the business more than being a bowler," Malinowski said. "It changes all the time, and you have to stay tuned in. Every day brings something different."

Being general manager can keep the Woodbine resident busy. She often will put in 50 or more hours in a week, and at different times of the day. Two weeks ago, for instance, Malinowski worked from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and went home tired. But about an hour later, a worker called her and had to go home sick, forcing Malinowski back to the lanes -- where she stayed until nearly 4 a.m.

"You have to like what you do, and you have to be willing to be flexible," Malinowski said. "We work whatever the business calls for."

Malinowski has a staff of about 25 employees. Her job as a supervisor has taken her to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, N.J., Cancun, Mexico, and other cities for a variety of Brunswick seminars.

Warren Smith, Malinowski's Brunswick supervisor, worked as her assistant for a year at Normandy and said that, for all of her knowledge and experience, Malinowski's people skills might be her biggest asset.

"She gets along with everybody," said Smith, a Woodstock resident. "We've had a lot of laughs together. She's just a pleasant person."

That ability to get along with so many people helps Malinowski every day. She works with all kinds of folks and has a number of stories to tell.

One of her favorite experiences, she said, is a fund-raiser that Baltimore Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis has held at Normandy. He will do it again next month, renting the entire 32-lane, ten-pin facility, then subletting each lane to a company or group and placing a celebrity bowler in with each.

Malinowski said the "four-star names" that Lewis brings in are staggering. She remembers seeing former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield at Normandy and realizing how low-key he was.

"He just wanted popcorn," she said.

Malinowski also has seen movie director Spike Lee and Todd Heap and Jamal Lewis of the Ravens, and she has watched how many people enjoyed themselves at an event that raised about $120,000 for at-risk youngsters.

"He put a lot of effort into it," she said of Lewis. "He's an avid bowler, and he really likes bowling. [The event] means a lot to him."

The Normandy lanes recently underwent major changes while staying open. Malinowski said the appearance of everything was changed during a renovation last summer: making a larger game room, larger bar, painting the outside of the building blue and giving it a more modern look.

Malinowski appreciates Brunswick Corp.'s aggressiveness in trying to keep its finger on the pulse of what's going on and how her lanes can best go with that.

For example, in years past, most leagues had people of similar age. But now, because parents and children are looking for more time together, different leagues are becoming more popular.

The adult-children leagues, or having parents and children bowl together regularly, is something Malinowski wants to market.

"You're seeing a big surge in youth/adult activities [everywhere]," Malinowski said. "Bowling is a sport that they can participate in together."

It is a people sport, the reason that Malinowski still loves her job after all these years. It is another reason people like working with her.

"When I've had a rough day over here at [Perry Hall], I'll call her," Smith said. "She'll listen, and she'll help and she'll be there."

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