Johnston’s lane time has expired.
The town’s lone bowling alley will soon close.
Although an exact date has not been released, Town Hall Lanes will cease operation in several weeks.
And Atwood Avenue’s about to welcome another bank branch.
“Because Johnston needs another bank on Atwood Avenue,” Town Hall Lanes employee, and the current business owner’s aunt, Lori Richardson said sarcastically Wednesday morning. “People of every town should have a right to say what’s built (and demolished) in their town. Especially something like this ... It’s a staple.”
The Johnston community will miss its little duckpin bowling alley, which has been a downtown landmark since 1959 (the alley celebrated a half-century in business in 2009).
“I know they have the power to do this, but why?” Robert Sandberg, of Johnston, asked in a letter to the editor. “The lanes bring fun, a little exercise and a place to meet friends. This is important to seniors as well as young people who need a place to go that isn’t a bar.”
Although the lanes also had a bar, the business has been struggling for years.
However, the current owners were optimistic. With a little luck, they had hoped to stay in business for another half-century.
Despite the building’s sale to the bank, Richardson said Town Hall Lanes was in the midst of a remodel. The snack bar was under renovation and the current owners had hoped, at very least, to finish out this year’s league-play.
“It’s all going to depend on when they shut the water off,” Richardson explained. “To get to the bank they’re building out front, the way the sewer goes under the building they’ll have to shut off our fire sprinklers for months and months. We can’t survive that. We’ll probably be closed the third week of April. We’ve told our leagues because they’re not even allowing the leagues to finish their season.”
Former owner Frank G. “Junior” Ferri, a former Warwick State Representative, contacted at his home in Florida, confirmed he sold the property “last February” to Cobble Hill LLC.
“It’s a little sad,” Ferri said. “I guess it’s bittersweet that it’s closing, but that’s the way property values are going. It was a labor of love.”
Ferri, and his father (Frank R. Ferri) bought the bowling alley from Anthony Zanni in 1984. They operated the alley with brother, Robert, for more than 30 years.
The site plans call for construction of a bank branch along Atwood Avenue — the newest location for the Rhode Island financial institution formerly known as the Pawtucket Credit Union, now known as Coastal1 Credit Union.
“It seems rather dumb for a bank to tick off a lot of people for no good reason,” Sandberg wrote. “There seems to be a lot of other places for a bank. I know that I will never do business with the bank.”
Ferri said he sold the building, and the surrounding plaza, for $2.9 million. The plaza’s other businesses are expected to remain open.
“They’re starting to put the bank up,” Ferri said over the phone. “I had heard they wanted to keep the bowling alley, but changed their mind.”
Ferri bought the property in 1984. He kept the bowling business going strong until he sold it (but kept ownership of the building and property) to Richard Fraielli in 2015.
Fraielli could not be reached for comment for this story.
A recorded message at the bowling alley (401-831-6940) informs callers of limited hours of operation:
“On Wednesday, we’ll be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for league play only,” the recorded greeting informs potential bowlers.
Richardson replied to a message left on the Town Hall Lanes answering machine.
“We were going to be able to survive, but the way they have to shut the water off … it will take months and months and we couldn’t survive without the water,” she explained.
Richardson said many of the Lanes’ longtime customers are heartbroken.
The Smithfield Seniors, for example, had to find a new location for their 75 to 100 members.
“They’ve bowled here forever,” Richardson said. “Looks like everybody’s going to Meadowbrook (in Warwick).”
Now they’ll have to travel from Smithfield, through Johnston and Cranston, to the Warwick alley.
“Like this town really needs another bank,” Richardson said, trying hard, but failing to stay positive. “Another bank on Atwood Avenue … We didn’t need another bank.”
She took a deep breath.
“You couldn’t put a bank somewhere else?” Richardson asked again. “It is what it is. We’re trying not to be bitter.”
Editor’s Note: Share your Town Hall Lanes memories with the Johnston Sun Rise. Email photographs and written memories to Sun Rise Editor Rory Schuler at email@example.com.
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