Bowling alleys fighting through closures

While Iowa golf courses around the area remain open, welcoming the spring weather and golfers, bowling alleys did not get so lucky.

They’re one of the non-essential businesses on both sides of the river that had to close their doors amidst the attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). On March 16, the bowling alleys were given just two hours notice to shut their doors.

“We’re like a lot of businesses, we kind of new it was coming but it was still a shock when it happened,” Clinton Plaza Bowl owner Mike Pelham said.

“Being in the bowling industry, this couldn’t have come at a worse time,” Imperial Lanes owner Kenny Garvey said.  “March/April are the best times of year and we use those months to boost us into the slower summer months. Without that it’s left me very concerned how the summer is going to go. To say a million thoughts are running through my head might be an understatement. I’m doing my best to take this day by day, but I can’t help but fear for the near future a bit.”

The area bowling alleys, including Fulton’s Triple Play and Camancche’s Imperial Lanes, went to work shutting down. That included shutting off what equipment they could in order to save on utilities, stripping bowling lanes to remove the oil, clearing inventory and scrubbing the houses clean.

It’s an unprecedented situation, and one they’re still getting used to.

“Shutting the place down takes some time and figuring out inventory and all that, working with distributors,” Pelham said. “There are people who have it a lot worse than we do. Fortunately, we will survive. There’s a lot of things that we have work out because we’ve never had to deal with it.”

One of those things are the leagues at each respective bowling alley. Fall leagues were in the thick of their tenure, and all of a sudden everything was on hold. Right now, the order to remain closed runs through April 7, meaning that the houses could reopen at midnight on April 8. Although it doesn’t look likely, it’s an ever-moving situation.

“We haven’t had any leagues officially cancel,” Pelham said. “The only thing we know for certain is the governors order ends on April 7 at midnight, and although that will get extended almost certainly everyone is very understanding, willing to leave things on hold until we know how it’s going to work out.

“We haven’t really gotten into the topic yet because we don’t know what the time frame is going to be yet.”

The Plaza is experiencing just some of the positive community support that’s come out of the pandemic. Pelham says he’s received plenty of messages from bowlers and other customers, reiterating support and sending positive thoughts.

Triple Play posted the hashtage #BowlingStrong on their Facebook page.

Imperial Lanes is continuing to run their bar and grill in carry out fashion, and people are continuously sharing their menu and their specials to get the word out. That includes their full menu and beer to-go.

“Being able to keep the doors open on a limited basis has at least kept cash flow coming through the business,” Garvey said.  “Being more than two-weeks in it has certainly had its ups and downs, but I can’t complain just yet. The importance of being able to provide food to the community still is more than just being able to save face and have cash flow, it keeps you in peoples’ minds. It’s far too easy to forget about a place after they’ve been closed for an extended period.”

The support will stay important to all small businesses.

“All the small businesses are going to rely on community support,” Pelham said. “We do a lot on social media and there seems to already be a lot of support out there. Hopefully, people will be anxious to get back out and they’ll come out and support all our small businesses.”

When they’re given the go-ahead to open their doors, there will be plenty to think about. They’ll have to connect with all their employees to work out schedules, restock shelves, and prep the lanes for competition to begin again.

Then they can reevaluate the timeline and see if they can salvage some of the league bowling.

Most importantly, their doors will be open again and business will be flowing. Like all small businesses in the area, they’re hoping the community responds positively when that happens so they can all get back on their feet.

“It’s just trying to navigate all the news,” Pelham said. “There’s programs in place for small businesses, and we’re just trying to come out the other side in still good shape. I feel optimistic when everything opens up that there’s a wave of support coming from the community.”

And maybe get some bowling in.

“The support from our community here in Camanche, Clinton and the surrounding areas is going to be extremely needed and encouraged,” Kenny Garvey said.  “If you love being able to go bowl at your local center, show it to them.”

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