Big Al’s

For this chain of family entertainment centers, charity is the name of the game

Kirkwood family
Courtesy of Big Al’s

Not only is Big Al’s the happy place of families across Clark County – and indeed the West Coast – at the heart of the small chain of family entertainment centers is one big family itself, the Kirkwoods.

Big Al’s is literally a mom-and-pop shop, with founders father Allan Kirkwood as Chairman of the Board and mother Sandee Kirkwood as shareholder and board member. Brother Daniel Kirkwood is CEO, sister Kelly Gaylor is senior accountant, brother-in-law Dean Gaylor is a board member and shareholder, niece Allison Gaylor and nephews Matthew and Joseph Gaylor are shareholders. Another Vancouver family, Steve and Jo Marie Hansen, are board members and shareholders.

Philanthropy might as well be Big Al’s middle name. Members of the Kirkwood and Hansen families have sat on the board of directors at the Clark County Food Bank and have been recognized by the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington as Philanthropists of the Year – Hansens in 2012 and Kirkwoods in 2018.

Big Al’s charitable contributions don’t just happen in board rooms; rather, charity is a main focus for the company year round. Along with various Big Al’s “Big Heart” community projects, with emphasis on children and families, Big Al’s makes charitable contributions to the food bank, Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Washington and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital throughout the year. The annual Big Al’s Everything is Awesome Toy Drive and Bowl with Heart Bowl-a-Thon, partnering with Sophie’s Chapter and benefiting Doernbecher, donated nearly 2,500 toys, books and art supplies, and helped raise nearly $60,000 during last year’s event.

Throughout the year, Big Al’s Big Hearts, a group of Big Al’s employees, volunteer their time and participate in projects that give back to the local community. Projects focus on partnering with local organizations like those above and also include a commitment to the outdoors with park and trail clean-ups and a youth life jacket fitting and water safety program.

Open in 2006, Big Al’s was one of the first of its kind to bring bowling lanes, an arcade and a sports-bar style restaurant under one roof.

Big Al’s is committed to training and engaging employees and prides itself on promoting with the company.

“To employees that have been with Big Al’s since day one and have climbed the ranks to hold senior leadership positions,” said Daniel Kirkwood, “it truly is a family business and a testament to our investment in people.”

Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.