The Austin African-American Business Networking Association (AAABNA) recently challenged members of the Austin Chamber of Commerce to several rounds at the Brunswick bowling alley in River Grove.

“They supposedly challenged the chamber and, of course, we didn’t step down,” said Michelle Collins, managing director at ShoreBank, a member of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and a regular baller with the Monday Night Mix Bowling League.

The group of 30 business owners and professionals weren’t hard to spot. They were in their lanes under a cluster of red, black and green ballons. Some even brought their children to the alley where they served up pizza, pop and treats in a wicker basket.

Malcolm Crawford, executive director of the AAABNA, said it’s at these types of social events that the real business deals are made. “We decided that networking is the key,” said Crawford. “And this is an opportunity to network and to see people in another light,” he added.

Tracy Flint, project manager for the real estate department of Bethel New Life, was at the event looking to bridge some new relationships for an upcoming residential and commercial development at Lake and Kedzie.

“I’m hoping to partner with people in the community, to try and get some people hired on a site that we’re working on,” said Flint who also attended with her family. The Bethel New Life representative was looking for community construction and electrician professionals to work on an upcoming green-build project that will include 30 condos and 7,000 square feet of commercial space.

Although there wasn’t any actual money on the table or trophies to be won, a little bit of competition was in the air.

“Every once in a while, I can knock ’em all down,” said Camille Lilly, president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, as she picked up a spare and gave a colleague a “high five.”

But most agreed this night was about networking and having fun with friends. “This is our first bowl,” said Aleatra Elzy, owner of Protecta Home Loans, Inc. and a member of the AAABNA. “It’s just for fun, not a prize. It’s about physical fellowship as well as some networking.”

D’Lana O’Neal, executive director of Local Motions performance arts center at 6246 W. North Ave., said, aside from business, the event reflected a relationship connection in Austin’s business community. “I’m invested in this community and when you look around here, you see a lot of history.”

Allstate, Park National Bank, Loretto Hospital and Austin Weekly News, were some of the other professional organizations present with their bowling balls and business cards.