Tucked away in the corner of the St. Albans Shopping Center is a business that has brought smiles, strikes and spirit to the community for the past 50 years.
"I've gone here since I was younger," said Codi Lulek, 16. "It's kinda where I grew up."
"I think it's everyone's dream to own a bowling center-- wow, that's exciting!" said John LeBlanc, who co-owns the St. Albans Bowling Center with his brother Roger. His family has run the lanes for 45 years.
"Back in the '80s it was the heyday of bowling," he said.
But now the empty lanes tell a different story. Many are leaving this pastime in the past.
"Then the '90s hit and the decline started," LeBlanc said.
A decline now leading to demise, the LeBlanc brothers made the difficult decision to close the Bowling Center this summer.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Tell me how you came to the decision that it was time to close.
John LeBlanc: We saw this coming; it was not hard. It just wasn't financially feasible.
"We try to come down every day," Codi Lulek said.
She and brother Caleb, 9, are some of the few loyal bowlers left.
Gina Bullard: What are you going to do with your free time?
Caleb Lulek: Just lie around.
And that's the reason landlord and real estate developer Tony Pomerleau tried to keep the business rolling. He let the lanes operate rent-free for the past few months, saying Franklin County needs a community space like this. Even though LeBlanc's thankful for the chance to keep the family business alive, he doesn't see a turnaround in sight.
"The demand for the sport is dwindling," he said. "Nationwide hundreds of operations like this have gone under."
LeBlanc says there is no one reason for the closing; it's a combination of dwindling league numbers and old equipment that would cost half a million dollars to update.
Gina Bullard: How do you feel about closing this place? It's been your life.
John LeBlanc: I'm ready to go. It's going to be mixed feelings.
LeBlanc is now looking for a new career. And luck might on his side; with one of the final times on the lane he threw three strikes in a row! Making memories up until the last moment when the last pin falls at the end of August.
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