By MADELINE HUGHES
The owners of Champlain Lanes bowling alley on Shelburne Road announced this week that they will be closing their doors in May.
The business has been in the Longe family for 55 years.
“It’s going to be an emotional rollercoaster over the next couple of months,” co-owner Randy Longe said in an interview Tuesday.
Longe announced the closure to the bowling leagues on Monday night. Since then, many customers have reached out, sharing their memories of the bowling alley.
Champlain Lanes opened its doors in 1964 when Ray Pecor Sr. and Raymond Longe decided to open a bowling alley. Pecor owned the land and built the building. Longe purchased the equipment and furnishings.
“Three generations of Longes and three generations of Pecors have been involved in the business,” said Raymond Longe’s son, Randy. He recalled Trey Pecor, the current owner and grandson of Ray Pecor Sr., bowling and playing pinball there as a child.
“The relationship between the Longe and Pecor families has been tremendous over the 55 years,” Randy Longe said.
Last year, Pecor approached Longe asking how the duo could upgrade the bowling alley and move it into the future.
“We would have to invest a considerable amount of money into the bowling alley, and they would have to invest a considerable amount of money into the building,” Longe explained. “It was not economically feasible to invest that type of money into a building we didn’t own.”
Rent is not cheap for the 15,368 square-foot building that houses 16 bowling lanes, each one taking up roughly 800 square feet, Longe said. The land value has increased and Route 7 has changed, he added.
Longe owns Champlain Lanes with his brother Michael and son Caleb. They also own Twin City Family Fun Center in Berlin on the Barre-Montpelier Road, which Caleb will continue own and operate. The Berlin bowling alley is on land owned by the Longe family, so they have made considerable upgrades to it over the years, Longe said.
Before Champlain Lanes closes on May 12, the company said it will host its 55th Champlain International Championship Tournament.
The announcement from Champlain Lanes comes as the future of the adjacent property is also in transition. Lake Champlain Transportation – the Pecor family real estate company – owns the bowling alley along with Lakeview Mobile Home Park immediately to the south.
The park has 64 mobile homes and more than 100 residents who have formed a co-operative to collectively purchase the property where they live. Last June, Pecor announced plans to sell the mobile home park, prompting the residents to organize with the goal of buying it.
As that process has moved forward, Lake Champlain Transportation recently applied to the Shelburne Development Review Board for permission to change the boundary line between the mobile home park and the bowling alley parcel. Last month, the board approved adjustment.
Despite the boundary adjustment however, the neighborhood and bowling alley still share an access driveway to Route 7.
It remains unclear what the future holds for the Champlain Lanes property. Pecor has not announced any plans for it nor has his company applied to the town with any future project plans, according to town officials.
Neither Pecor nor Dale Arango, chief financial officer at Lake Chaplain Transportation, responded to phone and email messages before the Shelburne News went to press.