The family that owns Champlain Lanes announced Tuesday that the 16-lane bowling alley that has operated for half a century on Route 7 in Shelburne will close in May.
Its last day of business is scheduled for May 12, which is also the conclusion of the 55th Annual Champlain International Championship Tournament.
Co-owner Randy Longe told Seven Days that the family has never owned the building that houses the business, and that their choice to close it was made in close consultation with the landlord, Trey Pecor.
"It's a decision that has come jointly between the landlord and the Longe family," Longe said. "It's a decision that has been extremely, extremely difficult for us."
The Longes and Pecors have been working together since Longe's father, Raymond Longe, opened the alley in 1964 in a building built by Ray Pecor Sr.
Trey Pecor did not immediately respond to an email for comment.
The small center serves the local league bowling scene as well as what Randy Longe described as a "young adult" clientele who enjoy the alley's nostalgic feel.
But the business, while still profitable, needs upgrades, and the building needs work, Longe said.
"It's not economically feasible to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a building we don't own," he said.
The value of the property has increased substantially in recent years — "a big factor" that loomed in the decision, Longe said. Just last June, Pecor informed residents of the adjacent Lakeview Mobile Home Park that he intended to sell the property.
Longe also owns Twin City Family Fun Center in Berlin, which he remodeled several years ago, adding laser tag, an arcade and a restaurant. He thinks there's still a market in the Burlington area for a small bowling center, "but it would have to be someone that owns the property."
Longe said the decision has been "very, very emotional" for him and his brother, Michael. Longe choked up as he read aloud to Seven Days the last lines of a letter the family sent Monday to some of its longtime clients.
"We cannot begin to express the hole in our hearts this decision has made," he read. "We could talk endlessly about the memories we have and the friendships we've made. We will miss this center for sure. However, it is you, our customers and friends, who have made the memories. We will miss you the most."