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Harrisville convenience store manager undertakes bowling, chain saw venture

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HARRISVILLE — While managing the Stewart’s Shop here, a town of Diana man has spent his spare time turning his interest in bowling and chain saws into a new business venture.

“I think it’s a good fit for the town,” said Robert Bernhard, who operates Bonaparte Saw Shop and Rob’s Pro Shop from his residence at 13869 S. Bonaparte Road.

Mr. Bernhard, who moved here seven years ago to be closer to some of his wife’s family, worked at and operated a bowling center in Clifton Park for many years. He also attended Hudson Valley Community College and SUNY Oswego, but bowling remained a passion.

“Very quickly, I realized I wanted to help people with bowling,” he said.

So, last February, Mr. Bernhard bought a drill press and opened a pro shop. That allowed him to use his experience in custom-fitting bowling balls and help his fellow bowlers at Harrisville Lanes, as well as ones from surrounding alleys such as those in Croghan and Gouverneur.

“It just took off,” he said. “I had people every week. It was a good marriage. I’d be out here until 2 o’clock some mornings.”

Mr. Bernhard also attended a weeklong class in ball setup in York, Pa. “I had a lot of experience, but these guys are the best in the world,” he said.

The Lake Bonaparte area resident said he bowls once per week during the season, carrying a 220 average and boasting 16 perfect games and three 800 series for his career.

However, he is equally as excited about helping others, noting Roger Fuller set a lane record with an 846 series a couple of weeks after he had set up his ball.

“To fit someone’s hand is an art,” said Mr. Bernhard, who keeps 25 to 30 new balls in stock. “To lay the ball out as to where to put the holes is a science.”

He also bought a specialized oven for bowling balls that removes oil soaked up from lanes over the course of time.

“When you put the ball in the oven, it’s like a new ball,” the shop owner said.

Mr. Bernhard recently decided to add a chain saw dealership at his shop, drawing inspiration from a year of working for Lewis Tree Service after moving to the north country.

“They taught me a ton of stuff, and I’ve been running a saw ever since,” he said.

While Mr. Bernhard for the past six years has worked at Stewart’s Shops in West Carthage and Harrisville, he noticed a dearth of chain saw dealerships in the area.

“We have two things in Harrisville: rocks and trees,” he said. “I haven’t met many people that don’t own a saw.”

A Jonsered and Oregon chain saw dealer, Mr. Bernhard has 14 new and used saws for sale and also does repairs, electronic diagnostics, sharpening, tuning and other small engine work.

“I’ve got five suppliers now, and I’m working on a sixth,” he said.

Mr. Bernhard said his two businesses go well together, given that bowling and sawing are typically done at different times of the year.

And, while the venture now requires him to work evening and night shifts at the convenience store he manages, he remains enthusiastic and even said he has a few other business ideas he is considering.

“Harrisville, I think, is great at supporting local businesses,” Mr. Bernhard said.

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