Deal Saves West End Duckpin Alley As Ducks on the Ave
By BRIAN DOWLING
July 02, 2012
The on-again, off-again salvation of the historic duckpin bowling alley in Hartford's West End is in hand, and the place will be call "Ducks on the Ave," said its new owner, who signed a new lease on the building.
The new name refers to its Farmington Avenue location, said Tim Stratton, 24, who with his father, Richard, put in a last minute offer to save the alley after reading an article in the Hartford Courant saying that family members of the former owner were disassembling the lanes to sell off the equipment.
A previous effort to save the alley, which closed last month, fell short. Keeping it open has been seen by some as a boost to quality of life in the neighborhood.
"Every time you have a business that can build community, like the bowling alley or the small supermarket that has just opened, this enhances the quality of life for all the residents," said David Barrett, president of the West End Civic Association, a former Courant editor. "We want the West End to be a place to live, a place to play, a place to work. We're always in the business of building a community, and this could help."
Stratton is cautiously moving forward by taking things step-by-step and consulting other alley managers.
"It's still pretty overwhelming," he said. "It takes about a year to learn the machines well."
A few details are neeeded before the alley can reopen, including a credit-card machine, insurance, a phone line and some quick cleaning. But if they work out, the doors could open as soon as the end of next week, he said.
Alley managers from around the state have reached out to help Stratton get up to speed. Todd Turcotte, the alley's former owner who still runs a location in Cheshire, offered himself as a consultant to Stratton as he gets the business running.
Also, Rich Dunnack, who manages Luck Strike Lanes, a duckpin alley in Mansfield, gave his number to Stratton, in the event that he has any questions, like where to find parts or equipment, how to bring in customers or how to care for the lanes.
"You wear many hats running a bowling center," he said. "Having a new owner like that, it's nice to have many lifelines to call."
This is the second time when the alley's pending demise brought buyers forward. A group of West End residents bought the alley in 2000 when it was threatened with closure. Turcotte bought the alley from that group in 2006.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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