Thetford Man Wants to Buy, Reopen Hartford Bowling Alley
David Ufford of Lebanon reads a sign posted to the front door at Upper Valley Lanes and Games that explains the bowling alley's sudden closure while a man who asked not to be identified locks the door in White River Junction, Vt., on August 16, 2013. Ufford, an avid candlepin bowler who was looking to start a league at Upper Valley Lanes and Games, had heard a rumor that the bowling alley was closed and drove over to investigate. "When I heard of the closing, I just couldn't believe it," Ufford said, "I was just bowling here on Wednesday night, so I had to come over and see if the news was true."
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A sign taped to the front door at Upper Valley Lanes and Games in White River Junction, Vt., vaguely explains the sudden closure of the bowling alley on August 16, 2013.
Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »
White River Junction — A Thetford resident said he’s in negotiations to buy the building that houses Upper Valley Lanes and Games, which shut down abruptly Thursday night.
Ramhance Rampersaud said if his plans pan out, he would reopen the bowling center but not the adjoining bar and strip club. He plans to renovate that part of the building and open a family-friendly restaurant.
Rampersaud said he expects to close the sale with the building owner, Valley Land Corp., in the coming days, and would “like to continue the tradition of the bowling alley in the community,” while putting a “focus on quality family entertainment.”
“We want to continue to encourage families to partake in the center without having to be careful about a strip club,” he said in an interview Friday. “We believe the community will embrace that.”
Valley Land Corp. President Reginald Jones would not confirm yesterday whether he was in talks with Rampersaud, who said he works as a manager at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, about a potential sale.
“We have people that we’re talking to ...” he said. “Hopefully a sale will be imminent and they’ll be back bowling quick. Until a deal is there, we don’t know.”
If Rampersaud purchases the building, he said he plans to hire familiar faces: Jimmy Clark, who was bowling pro at Lanes and Games, would continue in that position and be a partial owner, and Mike “Soup” Cassidy would manage the bowling center.
While Rampersaud said the bowling center could quickly resume operating as it always has — there would be no changes to league play and no increases in rates, he said — the news of Upper Valley Lanes and Games’ demise was met with confusion and frustration on social media, where the current business owners first announced the closing.
The post that went up on the Lanes and Games Facebook page around 9:30 p.m. Thursday night provided little information, apologizing to customers but adding that the owners, Dale and Naomi Lucas, “cannot give (patrons) access to your things or explain the situation.”
The Lucases declined comment last evening.
“Today was an incredibly hard day,” the post said. “The bowling center is no longer open. We are very sorry about this. ... Please respect (the owners) and understand that everyone is upset and under tremendous amounts of stress. Thank you for your loyalty as a customer and understanding of the situation at hand.”
That status update was shared by other Facebook users nearly 300 times by Friday evening, prompting nearly 100 responses. Many bowlers who kept equipment at the center, such as bowling balls and shoes, wondered how they could retrieve those expensive items without any notice.
Jones, of the Valley Land Corporation, said those customers should come to Lanes and Games this morning from 9 a.m. to 12 noon to retrieve their belongings. Those who cannot attend today’s pickup session should call the Valley Land Corp. at 802-295-3358 to schedule a pickup time.
“What about everybody’s personal belongings, the ones that don’t have Facebook and can’t see this?” asked one person. “Is someone going to contact them and let them know? ... (W)hy did no one know any of this way happening before hand?”
Upper Valley Lanes and Games wrote back shortly after: “We understand your position. If we were given any sort of notice of the situation then you would have been contacted. There is nothing we can do right now. We are very sorry.”
Jones declined to comment on whether closing the bowling lanes was the decision of Lucases or the corporation.
He also declined comment on whether Lanes and Games was up-to-date on its bills and whether the lease was up for renewal.
He said Key Communications, which shares the building, was a “tenant in good standing.”
At the building on Friday, handwritten signs were taped to the entrance doors of the bowling alley.
“We are very sorry,” they read, “but we are closed due to a family emergency.”
Mark Hamilton, coach of the Hartford High bowling team and the architect behind Vermont High School Bowling, now 12 teams strong, said on Friday that it “(broke) his heart” to see the Lucases go out of business.
“They’ve been so good to the community ... They have been so good to us — charging $5 a head for practices and matches. They’re everything to us,” he said. “It would be devastating for them not to be open.”
Rampersaud talked at length Friday about his plans for an affordable, family-friendly entertainment center.
Customers, he said, should feel “pampered,” but it should be affordable to a broad swath of the public, with “mid-range” prices at the restaurant.
“White River Junction doesn’t have any quality restaurants ... The overwhelming response” to asking people what they want in White River, he said, is “they don’t have a proper restaurant in this town.”
His hopes to include additional entertainment options, such as simulated skiing and golfing, while offering “better rates and more opportunities for bowling without increasing the pricing structure.”
Part of his plan “to regain the confidence of the community,” was to close the adjoining strip club, Hollywood’s Hardbodies. The only way into club, which Rampersaud said was subleasing from Lanes and Games, was through the lobby of the bowling center.
The bar, Shenanigans, was accessible from the bowling center and had a separate entrance, as well, and was also sub-leasing from the bowling center, Rampersaud said.