What began as a way to occupy a Christmas tree farmer the other 11 and a half months of the year has turned into a 60-year-old staple of family fun in Bristol.
Eby’s Family Fun, a roller skating and laser tag arena on Ind. 120 outside Bristol, turned 60 this year.
According to third generation owner Janice Maxey, her grandfather, Harry Eby, opened his building for roller skating in 1953 as a way to make money when he wasn’t selling Christmas trees, his original business.
“His first thought was he wanted a nice place to sell his trees,” Maxey said, “because that was the first business that he started and then it just kind of grew from there.”
Maxey said that while at first the roller skating was a secondary concern of Eby’s, that eventually changed.
“Skating was so popular and he got so much grief for closing it down that he added on, made it bigger and kept it going and it’s been going ever since,” she said.
She said that originally her grandfather just had a concrete floor in the building, but as he invested more into the skating business he installed a wooden floor, which is more ideal for skating.
The business was handed down from Eby to Maxey’s mother, Doris before it was handed off to Maxey and her brother, Barry Lang.
“We feel that we’re definitely deeply rooted in the community,” she said. “We’re committed to keep that up. Each generation kind of hands that on to the next and we want to be part of the community so we’re determined to make that work.
“I grew up here in the businesses. My mom would come to work and I would (come with her).”
The business has been successful in a small town, she said, because the community has continued to support it.
“We are loyal to the community and the community is very loyal to us,” she said. “We get a lot of people who skated here as kids, they grew up, they have their own kids. I’ve had grandparents that bring their grandkids here because they skated here.”
Despite the support, Maxey said that it’s hard to run a business and so they try to change things up and keep it current.
One example is the addition of laser tag, which was added after the recession hit.
“It goes really well with the skating,” she said.
Maxey said the community’s loyalty and the determination of the family will keep the business going for years to come.
“It is a smaller community, which I think sometimes is a struggle,” she said. “But in the same token everyone is really loyal and supportive because we’re still here and still trying to make a go of it in the community.”