ALBANY, Ga. -- Alan Dismuke Jr. says the new establishment he officially opened New Year's Day -- Dismuke's Pool Hall at 1209 N. Slappey Blvd. -- will operate under simple guiding principles: "Fair, firm and friendly."
Dismuke's uncle, Don Dismuke, who will partner with his nephew on the venture, has another way of putting it.
"Come see us and do anything you'd ever want to do for a dollar or two dollars," the elder Dismuke laughed.
The Dismuke family is well-established in Albany with insurance and automotive businesses, but it was Alan Dismuke Jr.'s desire to bring a "real, honest-to-goodness pool hall" to the community that sparked his latest investment. He, Don Dismuke ("a real pool room guy") and his cousin Daniel Dismuke decided taking over operation of the former Gameland Billiards establishment in a building the family already owned was a no-brainer.
"I had a little money put away, and I wanted to put it into a new business," Alan Dismuke said. "I did a lot of research, talked with my family and decided this was a perfect fit. It's a lot easier here to make an existing business go than it is to start a new business. So this was an easy transition."
Dismuke and staff shut down Gameland to work on an establishment makeover, and the outcry on the social networking site Facebook was enough to convince them they'd made a smart business move.
"I was amazed at the response on Facebook when people came and saw the business was closed," Dismuke, who also owns and operates Mad Hatter Muffler & Brake Center a couple of blocks up Slappey, said. "People were upset; there were some who said they cried when they heard about it. A lot of folks said they grew up in that building."
The Facebook crowd can rest easy. It's a new and improved establishment that officially opened its doors Saturday. The newly painted business name on the outside of the building offers only a hint of what awaits patrons when they come inside.
The pool room is a gaming wonderland, featuring 19 newly covered tables -- in blue felt(!) except for the red VIP table -- an Internet jukebox, a Golden Tee golf game, dart boards, six television sets and various amusement machines. The Dismukes, including Daniel's wife, September, and Gameland holdover Michael "Booger" Lacey will be on hand to offer the best hot dog in the area -- "a real, all-beef dog" -- canned and bottled beers, nachos, sodas, coffee and assorted other snacks.
"One of the things I've always wanted to see is a place in Albany to get a good hot dog, not all those cheap red wieners people here are used to eating that are made from all kinds of leftover parts," Alan Dismuke said. "There are places like this in Moultrie, Cordele and Tifton that are known for their good hot dogs, and that's what I'm looking for.
"We will have a good, all-beef hot dog that's reasonably priced."
When the Dismukes started their makeover of the Pool Hall, they found themselves facing a monumental task. They gave the expansive game room a thorough cleaning; put in new carpet, a sophisticated security system and cooking equipment (including a special steamer for those dogs); recovered the 19 pool tables (12 available at hourly rates and seven that are coin-operated); upgraded the custom-made lighting fixtures, and created a "pool room feel" for the place.
"The reason we called it (Dismuke's Pool Hall) is we wanted that name out there," the new owner said. "It's a pool hall, not a church, and it's not a sports bar. "We're going to keep it clean -- I really believe in that -- and we're going to make it a place where people will want to come in and eat a couple of hot dogs and shoot a game of pool."
Dismuke bought nostalgic seating and vintage-era signage from, among other places, the legendary Sportsman's Billiards establishment, and he's started a photo wall of fame that currently has autographed photos of wrestlers such as Dusty Rhodes and members of the rock band Kiss. Step inside his office and there's -- what else -- a silk tapestry of the famous "dogs shooting pool" print.
"We've had what I guess you could call a soft opening already," Dismuke laughed. "The doors have been open while we've been working on the place, and lots of people have been coming in to eat and to shoot pool. That's given us a chance to iron the kinks out.
"I think we're ready to kick off the new year. Hey, we're conveniently located, we're going to welcome everyone with good, old-fashioned friendly service, and this is going to be a fun place. Besides, there's really nowhere else for folks around here to go."
Dismuke said that he and his staff will eventually set regular times, but the Pool Hall is expected to be open 2 p.m.-midnight Mondays-Thursdays, 2 p.m.-until on Fridays, noon-until on Saturdays and noon-8 p.m. on Sundays.