From the parking lot of the Cedar Lanes bowling alley in Fresno, Calif., you’d never know that in its heyday, it was the place to be. 1970’s style signs still tower above the asphalt. White-haired men and women trickle in and out, dragging rolling bowling ball bags behind them.
“They had the professional bowlers here for a long time. They’ve had state tournaments here. They’ve had a lot of tournaments, big draw,” Mike Shaban.
Shaban has bowled there from the very beginning.
“Since 1959,” he said.
But he didn’t just go for the bowling.
“At one time, the Cedar Lanes prime rib was the finest in the Valley,” he said.
Edgar Llewellyn has been on a league there for about 20 years.
“I’m here a lot. I even have a locker here,” Llewellyn joked.
Marvin Stollar bowls at Cedar Lanes twice a week with his buddies, all senior citizens flirting with their 80’s.
“We’re not much at bowling, but there’s a lot of camaraderie,” he laughed.
But that’s all about the change. The Wathen Group announced Monday it bought the shopping center that houses Cedar Lanes and will tear it down for redevelopment.
It released this statement: “After a great deal of thought, investigation and outlook to the future, the ownership has come to the difficult decision that it is time for the property to be redeveloped so that it may begin a new history… We would like to share those future changes with you, due to business timing issues we are not at liberty to do so at this time.”
It’s news that has loyal bowlers down in the gutter.
“It’s like my second home. It’s a big loss,” Shaban said.
“I hate to see old landmarks go,” Stollar said.
“Sad, it’s sad yeah,” Llewellyn said.
But Cedar Lanes isn’t the only business that will have to shut its doors.
Just three years ago, Jimmie Bosquez spent $10,000 moving his sports memorabilia store, Jimmie’s Sports World, next to the bowling alley. He had been across the street for ten years. But property owners came in and wanted to redevelop that shopping center and put in a Fresh n’ Easy, which closed down in just a short time.
“Just shocked, little devastated, disappointed. I was hoping they would’ve been a little more honest and come forward and sat down with us tenants and told us what was going on,” Bosquez said.
Instead, Jimmie got a letter Monday afternoon saying he has to be out by June 25th.
“I’d like to stay in the neighborhood. It’s a good neighborhood. Everybody wants to move away from the neighborhood, but I want to stay,” Bosquez said. “It takes money to move again. Right now, just looking at it, I would say we’re pretty much done for a while.”
As for Cedar Lanes’ loyal customers, they’ll have to move on too.
“I hope we’re able to keep the group together and get started at another place,” Stollar said.
“I want to do more fishing,” Shaban said.
“That’s the whole thing, I don’t know,” Llewellyn said, shaking his head.