Bowling Balls Can Finally Pass the Smell Test

From Associated Press

Odors associated with bowling traditionally include smelly feet, cigarette smoke and beer. But what about grape, amaretto and cherry?

One bowling ball manufacturer -- Storm Products Inc. -- is putting fruit and other popular scents into its mid- to high-end bowling balls, resulting in a steady increase in sales.

More than half the bowlers on the Professional Bowlers Association tour last year used them, including four-time PBA champion Ryan Shafer.


Shafer, who has a contract with Storm, said he may have won a match two years ago in Kansas City because an opponent was distracted by his black licorice-scented ball.

“He asked me if I had to use that ball and I said, ‘Yes, this ball is working’ ... and I think that is why I won,” he said.

Storm Products’ first scented balls -- green apple and citrus -- came out in the spring of 2000. Since then, the company has produced about 40 scents. The current scents are black cherry, chocolate, lemonade, plum, blueberry, grape, banana, cinnamon, orange, amaretto and cherry.

“It’s just a real good feature of our equipment that gets the average consumer really hooked on our stuff,” said Steve Kloempken, technical director for Storm Products Inc.

These aren’t balls you currently find in your corner bowling alley, but they’re often in the bags of professional or league bowlers.

Most scents can’t be smelled until they are within two or three inches of your nose, although some have stronger odors.

Brigham City, Utah-based Storm, the fourth-largest bowling ball manufacturer, has a patent pending on the scented balls, which cost $150 to $250. Storm’s president and chief executive officer, Bill Chrisman, used to work with cleaners and knew that people associated scents with particular cleaners, so he decided to try it on bowling balls.

The more popular fragrances, which are added in the liquid used to create the ball’s 1- to 1 1/2 -inch shell, include cherry, citrus and chocolate.

“We haven’t found one yet that has lost its scent,” Kloempken said.

The company also is considering putting the scents in its lower-end balls that turn up in bowling alleys.

Neil Stremmel, research director for the United States Bowling Congress in Greendale, Wis., bowling’s regulatory body, said most bowlers don’t use the balls for scent or color, but for their performance -- such as if they curve a certain way.

But, “I like the smell of my grape ball,” he said.

“It’s a secondary thing for the upper echelon or top bowlers,” Stremmel said. “I could see newcomers or average bowlers, you know, getting into it for that reason because it’s cool or they think somebody might think it’s cool.”

The scents can help bowlers’ concentration, since many bring the ball near their nose at the lane, Kloempken said.

“It gets into a natural part of the routine for a lot of the bowlers,” he said. “It gets them in a certain frame of mind.”

Joe Cerar Jr., owner of Wisconsin’s largest bowling retailer, Bowler’s Pro Shop in Milwaukee, attests to that. Cerar said his peppermint-scented ball helped him last year when he competed in the PBA Senior Tournament.

“I felt more calm and relaxed,” he said. “I went from nervous to calm and I was smelling the peppermint.”

Cerar’s shop has 15 different scented balls and he said the smell makes a difference when someone chooses between two balls of the same price.

“On a fringe customer who is undecided, it’s sometimes a determining factor,” Cerar said.

Two people, of thousands, have told him they wouldn’t buy a ball because of the scent, he said.

John Petroff, 46, of Milwaukee, was in the shop recently to order cinnamon- and amaretto-scented balls. He has 10 to 20 balls, which include cinnamon apple, wintergreen, blueberry and peppermint scents.

He doesn’t pick them just for their scent, he said, but that doesn’t hurt.

“The bag does smell better especially when you have four or five of them,” Petroff said.