Elizabeth and Timothy Robinson have bought the former Fairwood Lanes with plans to renovate and eventually reopen the bowling alley.
They have enlisted the help of a longtime bowling center manager to run the facility and are optimistic bowling will eventually come back to Roanoke Rapids.
Elizabeth, an agent with Heaton Real Estate, said today, “As a real estate agent and citizen, I like to try to promote the community. We enjoy the town where we live. There’s a need for social activity. The bowling industry is for everyone.”
Both Elizabeth and Timothy share a vision for the economic revitalization of the city. “He has stood beside me in this project and is just as excited as I am to see it come together. He has worked hard hours on this project since we bought the building and hopes it will become a success.”
Fairwood Lanes closed in the summer of 2013 as the former general manager attempted to get a loan extension he believed would keep the business open.
For Elizabeth, buying the bowling alley herself was never far from her mind. “Realizing the business was closed and we needed something more for social activity, it was a shame the facility closed because it once was a thriving bowling center that attracted not only local residents but those from out of town.”
When the property was listed for sale, she said, “I had what I thought were very legitimate offers that were turned down.”
Elizabeth called bowling centers. Some came as potential buyers while some came to offer opinions.
Most, however, “couldn’t see beyond the vandalism.”
Five heat and air units have been destroyed, wires have been cut and stolen both inside and out.
Still, she said, “During the whole process I never gave up on the vision that we would do this project or that someone else would buy the bowling center to keep it thriving.”
Even with the dream of buying it herself in the back of her mind, she said, “I encouraged every caller. I always kept that vision before it ended up on auction and someone gutted it. I really thought the community would benefit more by it being a bowling center.”
Eventually, “the offers became less and less and interest became less and less,” she said.
Now, parking lot improvements are being made and windows are being cleaned. There are also plans for resurfacing.
The interior must be rehabilitated and electricity has to be restored. “Everything has got to be put back together for the purpose of making the building functional again.”
Elizabeth said Mike Nichols and his wife, Daleena, see promise in the building.
The restoring of power will be the litmus test, she said. “We have to turn one machine on at a time and fire it up. That will determine if the machines are salvageable.”
A laser test will determine whether there is permanent damage to the lanes. “Mr. Nichols has said if the lanes are not operable it’s a very easy fix.”
Nichols has more than 20 years experience in bowling center management. He has managed centers for both the government and civilian world, Elizabeth said.
Nichols and his wife are a team, she said. “That team just stood out to me. If you have that relationship you can make anything happen. They’re very budget and cost efficient.”
Nichols is also resourceful, Elizabeth said, and will look for equipment from other centers. “He says some of the older equipment is better than the new.”
Should there not be a way to rehabilitate the building, Elizabeth said, “We will look at all options. Before we determine it can’t be salvaged, we’re going to exhaust every avenue to convert it back to a bowling center. We will give 100 percent effort to bring it back. If it can, we hope the Roanoke Valley and citizens from other areas will utilize it.”