ST. ALBANS — The St. Albans Shopping Plaza’s oldest tenant announced Wednesday it will shut its doors – and 18 lanes – around the end of August.
Due to nationwide changes to the bowling industry, St. Albans Bowling Center owner John LeBlanc said the dwindling business could no longer be supported.
Pomerleau Real Estate, owner of the building, will work hard to find a new owner to take over the bowling alley, said Tony Pomerleau, but he also expressed some concern about the sport’s future.
“We’d be very happy if anybody is interested in having a bowling alley here,” Pomerleau said. He said Pomerleau Real Estate would prioritize any interest a potential new bowling alley has in the space before entertaining offers from other businesses.
LeBlanc and Pomerleau shared praise for each other and their tenant-landlord relationship that began in the late 1960s.
The Bowling Center opened in 1963 and Leblanc’s father bought it five years later with the business remaining in the family for the last 45 years. Pomerleau said he’ll keep working with LeBlanc during the transition and has appreciated the bowling alley’s business over the past 50 years.
“We’re very close friends and we’ve done everything possible to keep the alley open,” Pomerleau said.
With decreasing interest and participation in bowling in the St. Albans area mirroring the national trend, LeBlanc said keeping the Bowling Center open was no longer viable.
Because of more options for youth recreation, fewer women’s leagues and other factors, he said bowling no longer garners as much interest from the younger crowd, making it more difficult for his industry to remain strong.
“There’s not enough young blood,” said LeBlanc. “They have far more options (for other activities).”
Pomerleau, who’s worked with bowling alleys around the state, said other businesses are facing the same tough choice the St. Albans Bowling Center made. With fewer and fewer bowling alleys today, LeBlanc said the future outlook for the sport is dire.
“In 10 years, there won’t be many bowling centers left,” LeBlanc said.
In a prepared statement, LeBlanc thanked the Bowling Center’s past and current customers, local organizations and schools from St. Albans and Franklin County.
“Those who have come through our doors over the 50 years were not just customers; many have become friends whom we have shared so much of their lives with, watching them grow having families, their children becoming customers, in time having their own families and sadly enough having to say farewell to those who pass away,” LeBlanc wrote.
Besides regular customers and the bowling leagues that made the Bowling Center their home base, LeBlanc said there would be an impact among the schools and non-profit organizations that used the space for events.
“That’s going to have a rather traumatic effect,” he said.
As the announcement was made rather quickly yesterday afternoon, LeBlanc said he hadn’t had the chance to alert many of his usual customers. However, he said league members and organizations knew about the Bowling Center’s economic difficulties and the announcement would not come as a big surprise to many.
The approaching closure of the local business will leave bowlers only one choice in Franklin County, the Vermont Dairy Center located on Route 105 in Enosburgh.