How Old Is The Red Circle?

Growing up in Parma, I must have passed the Red Circle Bar & Lanes on State Road thousands of times. I’ve bowled there for Girl Scouts and birthday parties, and I’ve stopped in for a drink with family and friends. As with many Parma residents, the Red Circle has always been a part of my life. But when I stopped to think, I realized I knew very little about it. “How long has it been there?” I asked my mom, also a life-long Parma resident. “As long as I can remember,” she replied.

My curiosity drove me to stop up at the Circle and try to find out more over some amaretto and coffee. But I was met with similar replies. “I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid,” said Jason Pfeil, now in his 40s. “I used to come up here for the youth bowling leagues on Saturdays, and even bartended for a summer later on.” Jason directed me to his dad, Tom Pfeil, who has run the Circle’s bowling leagues for the last 30 years. Even he had trouble answering my question. “I remember when they added more lanes, from 6 to 12, and had to set the pins by hand,” he said. Tom also remembers the original owner Al Ceo.

The bartender Kathy also racked her brain, and thought she remembered when the original permit was pulled for a new awning, it may have said the late 1930s. I even called the city’s building department and the secretary said records said 1952, but that the original card was missing, so it could be even older. One thing is for sure, the Red Circle has been there a long time and its community vibe keeps people coming back. The third generation of Pfeils is now coming to the alley. “It’s a neighborhood place, more personal than big bowling alleys,” Jason said. “When I played on the youth league, we used to come here on Saturday mornings and then go sled during the winter time. Now my daughter bowls on the league.”

Tom has seen the same faces around the Red Circle for years. “I’ve known most of the people here their whole life,” he said. More than anything, he enjoys watching the kids on the leagues grow. “Some have grown up and can out bowl me now!” he said. Tom said the youth leagues are particularly important to the community because they offer kids another alternative to school-sponsored programs. He’s seen kids open up after joining the league in a way their parents said they didn’t previously. “It’s great for the parents too,” he said. “They can stay and socialize, or feel safe dropping their kids off at a place where they know most of the people.” 

As I looked around the old alley, it was refreshing to see so many young faces happy to spend their Saturday afternoon there. I saw the next generation of Red Circle patrons—the next generation of Parma. But Tom said unfortunately youth league numbers have been dwindling. Rather than lack of interest, Tom attributes the drop in no longer being allowed to distribute flyers at local schools. “There are lots of private programs—bowling, karate, dance—that don’t get the attention they deserve,” he said. 

Maybe we need a new way to draw attention to these programs? Tom said the Circle may not offer the youth league next year if participation doesn’t improve. If you know a child between the ages of 5 and 18 who may be interested in joining the league this fall, please call the Red Circle and ask for Tom. 

This blog has been republished from

Kathie Zipp

In her day job, Kathie Zipp is managing editor for Solar Power World magazine, published by WTWH Media out of Cleveland, Ohio. Outside of work, Kathie enjoys sharing her passion for Cleveland and its suburbs by blogging on the content council for Engage! Cleveland. She also recently joined the marketing and communications committee for the Young Professionals of Parma and is excited to advocate for her hometown in this role.

Volume 9, Issue 4, Posted 10:17 PM, 04.02.2017