Alex Gara, Alicia Harvey | American Bocce Co.
Bocce ball, a type of bowling game that originated in Italy, has surged in popularity in Chicago over the past decade, and American Bocce Club is to thank. Born in 2015 out of a bocce club in the Wicker Park neighborhood, ABC now hosts leagues and tournaments in establishments throughout the city, sometimes as many as five on any given night!
Co-founders Alex Gara and Alicia Harvey take what they call an "inclusive and community-minded approach" to their work. They deeply feel bonding over bocce is a great way to create a sense of camaraderie and community among its players, especially there is "absolutely no skill necessary" to join a league.
ABC's desire to grow the game has led them to branch out Chicago local bars to pop-ups everywhere from office buildings and malls to some of the country's biggest music festivals. The club has organized leagues in cities like Detroit and Tampa, and on cruise ships to the Virgin Islands and Australia. But American Bocce Club is proudest of its partnership with New Zealand-based Packaworld International to increase bocce programs at the Special Olympics.
Having already built the biggest bocce ball community in the United States, the next step for American Bocce Club is to build upon a pilot program to bring together some of the best players in the United States in a series of large tournaments.