Another of the Baltimore area's longstanding duckpin and tenpin bowling alleys is closing its doors.
After 40 years of operation, Bowl America Inc. will close its lanes at 11973 Reisterstown Road on Sunday.
The bowling alley is the second with duckpin lanes - a Baltimore tradition in which players use 5-inch balls to knock down short, squat pins - to close in the metropolitan area in less than a year. Last fall, Southway Bowling Center in South Baltimore closed to make way for upscale apartments.
Bowl America operators say that because the number of customers has dwindled, the company chose not to seek a renewal of its lease, which expires next month.
"We just felt it was time to leave," said Irv Clark, general manager of the Alexandria, Va.-based company, which has 20 other alleys on the East Coast. "The numbers weren't there."
Clark complained that the company couldn't get more than a two-year lease from its landlords at Reisterstown Shopping Center. The company has also been frustrated by its inability to obtain a liquor license for the business, he said.
"If you don't have the income, you can't make the renovations," Clark said.
The news of the alley closing dismayed longtime players such as Sue Kessler. Kessler has bowled at the Reisterstown lanes for 36 years, and served as the organizer of bowling leagues there.
"It's sad and depressing," Kessler said. "But it is a business venture."
The closing of the lanes follows a nationwide trend. During the last decade, 1,344 bowling establishments have closed, about one in five throughout the nation, according to the American Bowling Congress.
The Reisterstown lanes is the third closed by Bowl America in as many years, and the last of its duckpin lanes.
"It breaks my heart to see it go," Kessler said. "It has always been a part of Reisterstown. It has always been a part of the community."