FELIKS BANEL

Shores Bowl to become latest Western Washington bowling alley to close its doors

Apr 14, 2022, 12:58 PM | Updated: 5:30 pm
Shores Bowl...
Shores Bowl in Ocean Shores announced this week that they have lost their lease and will be closing in May after 62 years in business. (Shores Bowl via Facebook)
(Shores Bowl via Facebook)

First it was Narrows Plaza Bowl in University Place calling it quits in February, then Tech City Bowl in Kirkland earlier this week named October 2 as its final day. Now, the latest bad news about a Western Washington bowling alley comes from Grays Harbor County.

Word came Tuesday, when Rob Shaver, owner of Shores Bowl in Ocean Shores, posted a flyer on the door of the longtime family entertainment establishment, which read as follows:

It is with great sadness that I must announce that Shores Bowl will be permanently closing in May 2022. We have been unable to secure a lease extension after 24 years in business with the same landlord. After 62 years, Ocean Shores will no longer have a bowling center, as the landowner says he has other plans for the this space. Shores Bowl has been a staple in this community since 1960 and has been owned and operated by us since 1998.

Shaver could not be reached for comment Thursday. A source told KIRO Newsradio that Shaver, who also owns Rainier Lanes in nearby Aberdeen, is taking news of the closure very hard, and not yet making himself available to speak to reporters.

In the meantime, Ocean Shores resident Brad Fuller reached out to KIRO Newsradio about the closure and shared a photo of Shaver’s note and a vintage photo of the building which houses Shores Bowl.

“There is 2-3 other businesses in the same building [who] are on the bubble whether they can continue in the same location, if at all, in Ocean Shores,” Fuller wrote in an email Wednesday.

“The other rub with this building is that it was one of the original buildings by the original airport ‘terminal’ in the 60s while they were developing Ocean Shores in the Pat Boone era,” Fuller continued, referencing the involvement of the so-square-he’s-cool, “Tutti Frutti” crooning pop idol in the early years of the resort community’s development.

“They used to fly customers and movie stars in to play the yearly golf tournaments, to help promote the selling of buildable lots in Ocean Shores,” Fuller wrote. “The airport has now moved to the east side of the Ocean Shores and the old runway was converted to holes 13-17 of ‘the back 9’  of the current golf course.”

Greg Olsen is executive director of the Washington State Bowling Proprietors Association. Like so many things, the spate of recent closures of local bowling alleys – but please, industry folks say we should call them “bowling centers” – is all about the price of real estate.

“I don’t want to say it’s never been more popular, but you can’t find one bowling center owner right now who would tell you that the reason that they’re getting out of bowling is nobody’s interested [in bowling],” Olsen told KIRO Newsradio on Thursday. “Some of the centers that are part of our organization have had the strongest [profit and loss] statements over the last 18 months that they’ve ever had ever. So the demand – [the] public wanting to come out and have a good time at an affordable price –  has never been higher.”

“It’s just that the value of property and the scarcity of property is really what’s driving this whole thing,” Olsen added – whether it’s landlords choosing to not renew leases so they can build retail and apartments, or business owners themselves deciding to hang up the rental shoes and sell “the farm” to developers.

Add to this financial hardships from the pandemic – and, in some instances, family fatigue from running a business which may have been in operation for and by multiple generations – and it’s no surprise that so many bowling alleys are in flux or just plain headed off into the Sunset.

But, says industry guy Greg Olsen, it’s not all bad news. His group is meeting in person next week in Moses Lake for the first time in a few years. The Grant County community happens to be home to an exemplar known as Lake Bowl.

“There are 23 family members of the Russell clan that work for Lake Bowl, Incorporated,” Olsen said. “Lake Bowl owns a bowling center. They have a casino, they have a hotel, they have a brewery [which are] all part of their entertainment complex. They’re on land that they own and [the business] was started by their mom and dad in the 1950s.”

“There are still groups that like that, and with 23 family members working at Lake Bowl, there’s a way-strong family tie there that’s going to keep that bowling center and entertainment complex on the books and in business for a long, long time.”

But family-owned models aren’t the only source of good news among the closure stories, Olsen says, pointing to an investment-group owned entertainment complex in Gig Harbor called Ocean 5 as another example of where the bowling industry is likely headed.

“It’s just spectacular,” Olsen said. “It’s a family entertainment center. It features bowling, it features duckpins. It features a huge meeting space upstairs, huge arcade, wonderful restaurant and bar, live entertainment. It’s super, super nice.”

Besides homegrown operations like Lake Bowl and Ocean 5, Olsen says the national chains like Bolero and Lucky Strike — as well as a relative newcomer called Round One — will continue to be a factor in the bowling ecosphere of the Evergreen State.

And, says Olsen, the closure of Tech City (alias Totem Bowl) in Kirkland could be an opportunity for the right entity if they can find suitable real estate that pencils out on more than a ten-frame score sheet.

“The void between Woodinville and Renton for bowling” once Tech City Bowl closes, says Olsen, “is gigantic.”

“I guarantee you, there will be an investment group that will pop a bowling center in that geography. When? I couldn’t tell you,” he added. “But it’s going to be a very smart move when that happens.”

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea or a question about Northwest history, please email Feliks here.

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Shores Bowl to become latest Western Washington bowling alley to close its doors