Sept. 6, 2021 — This week, the owners of Holiday Bowl, a Florence institution for decades, announced they have decided to shut down operations and are selling the business. With this closure, Holiday Bowl becomes the longest tenured business in Florence to close its doors since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
Countless people from the local area have bowled, shot pool, played video games or ate the legendary “Bomber” sandwich, since owners Mike and Chris Lemhouse took over the business in the mid 1980s.
“If you want to know what we feel about closing, it’s sadness,” said Chris. “The people who played here were more than just bowlers. These were our friends. These people were like our family. We are really going to miss the people we’ve met through the years.”
The sentiment is returned by local bowlers.
“I’m devastated. I’m an avid bowler and when we chose a place to retire, it had to have a bowling alley,” said Donna Bingham of Florence. “What is doubly sad is my husband just took up the sport of bowling. For 37 years I've bowled alone, but Just this year, Bob decided to play, too. We had a great time on the summer league. Bob had two balls drilled for him and was practicing twice a week. Most importantly, he loved it! We were so looking forward to the winter league.”
According to Mike, “The business was no longer sustainable. We can't make it work and we think it's because of COVID. League bowling is our bread and butter, and a lot of the league bowlers just weren’t comfortable coming in during COVID.”
Mike hasn’t given up hope for future action on these lanes. He’d rather say he’s “moth-balling” things until he can find someone to buy the business.
The Lemhouses also own Reedsport Lanes and there’s already talk amongst Florence's league bowlers that they will join leagues there.
For those without the option to travel 20 miles south, Holiday Bowl will be greatly missed.
After the invention of the automatic pin setter, the popularity of bowling peaked in the 1950s — when Holiday Bowl opened in Florence — and ‘60s, followed by a steady decline in popularity since the 1970s. Around 2012, things leveled off and bowling has actually gained participants since then. The industry has grown from $4 billion in 2014 to $10 billion in 2018.
Since bowling remains popular outside of pandemic restrictions, a bowling center may still be sustainable in Florence.
For questions, contact Reedsport Lanes at 541-271-3822.