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Operation Success: Comet Bowl in Charles City, IA

Peggy Sweet & Mark Barry

For more than fifty years, the Comet Bowl has been a popular gathering place, where families from Charles City, Iowa and surrounding towns have come to bowl a few games, help raise money for local organizations and charities, or just relax and have a great time. At first, food was not the main draw. From the day the bowling alley opened its doors in the fall of 1961 until after Loyd Barry bought in to the bowling alley as a partner in 1972, bowlers could order beverages and snacks from the snack bar, but that was about it.

It was Barry’s wife, Judy, who suggested that the Comet Bowl raise their game by turning the snack bar into a small restaurant. Having managed a Dairy Queen in Lincoln, Nebraska before the family moved to Iowa, Judy had plenty of experience running a restaurant. So in 1979 the Comet Bowl expanded their menu to include roasted chicken, homemade soups, and a pork fritter club sandwich. Before long, bowlers were stopping by the restaurant after knocking down strikes and spares to linger over lunch or dinner. And there were those who didn’t set foot in the bowling alley—they came just for the food.

By the mid-1980s, the next generation of the Barry family had stepped up to manage the restaurant and bowling alley before eventually taking over ownership. Mark Barry managed the bowling alley while his sister, Peggy (Barry) Sweet, managed the restaurant. Both had grown up at the Comet Bowl, and had a few ideas about where to make updates.

people celebrating eating pizza

One of those ideas struck in 2002, after noticing that many of the families hosting kid’s birthday parties at the Comet Bowl ended up moving the party to a nearby pizza place or Dairy Queen when it came time to eat. In light of this trend, the Barrys decided it made sense to add homemade pizza to their menu. In the years since, the Comet Bowl has become known for their pizza, even though there are plenty of pizza places in the area that provide strong competition. Peggy meets this challenge by insisting on using only the freshest vegetables and high-quality cheeses and meats in each Comet Bowl pizza. She also relies on General Mills All Trumps™ flour to make their signature crust. “We use the best ingredients we can and hope that customers can taste the difference.”

Peggy, who loves to cook, does the meal planning, day cooking, and kitchen prep work for the Comet Bowl restaurant. Her goal is always to make what she can from scratch, including the salad dressings, potato salads, and soups, which are her favorite.

cream of chicken over a biscuit

For some foods, though, Peggy looks to General Mills Foodservice for help and inspiration. The Comet Bowl’s weekly lunch special of homemade goulash, for example, is made even better with a side of Gold Medal® cornbread, slathered in honey butter. And, Peggy usually makes a dessert once a week, relying on Gold Medal® cake and brownie mixes to fill out the menu on other days. Often, she will look up recipes on the General Mills Foodservice website to make new desserts using cake mixes she has in the pantry. But by far Peggy’s favorite go-to General Mills product is its biscuits. In fact, those biscuits inspired Peggy to create what’s become a favorite lunch special: cream of chicken over a biscuit.

“The biscuits are always in my freezer,” Peggy explains. “Pillsbury® biscuits just turn out better than my homemade biscuits. They’re so fluffy, they’re consistent, and I know they’re going to take exactly 16 minutes in my oven.”

As Peggy plans the menu, she meets regularly with Todd Hauser, district sales representative for Martin Bros., who recommends new and favorite products he handpicks for the restaurant. Many of those products come from General Mills.

“I love to offer my customers products from General Mills,” says Hauser. “It is like an insurance policy…there are rarely any issues. You know you are getting quality products you can depend on. I feel good about bringing my customers solutions from General Mills, as I know they are backed by the company’s extensive effort to stay on top of trends as well as focusing on the needs of the operator.”