BY BOB WEINER
For The Leader-Herald
Perry Lanes, the last bowling center in Johnstown and one of only three remaining in Fulton County, has closed its doors just as the 2021-2022 season was about to open.
Manager Chris Rider, who ran the 32-lane center at 1 Maple Ave. for the last five years, including the previous two with his brother, Dan, as his lone employee, said he was informed of the abrupt decision by owner Kenny Patel a few days ago. Rider’s wife kept the lanes’ Facebook page going to inform league bowlers of the news and to warn them to get any equipment they left behind in the lockers there out of the building as soon as possible.
“The owner wants me to schedule one day for everyone to come and get their stuff, but I’ll go up there to help anyone out. If you close down like this, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“I love the place. What can you do?” Rider asked rhetorically. “We loved our job, me and my brother. Even though it was 32 lanes and there were only two of us running it, it wasn’t too much of a headache. We did our best. I’m not disappointed for the owner. I’m disappointed for our customer base. I loved the people who came in to bowl, especially on a regular basis.”
Attempts Friday to contact Patel regarding Perry Lanes’ closing were unsuccessful.
Rider said with the economic problems in Fulton County he doubted if anyone locally would buy the center in hopes of keeping it as a bowling facility.
“They would have to get someone to buy it who has a lot of money, and that’s not the case around here,” Rider said. “If it was just an eight-lane center, I would have maybe bought it myself, but it’s 32 lanes.”
Former owner Roy Lomanto, whose father, Jim, was a 25 percent partner when Perry Lanes originally opened in 1958, said he’s not surprised by the closing, given the economic climate and the recent condition of the facility.
He worked at the lanes for his father, who eventually bought out the other partners, for 14 years before buying the center for himself in 1989.
“I was there a long time, and I was really happy,” Lomanto said. “I grew up in bowling, and my son was also a very good bowler. I finally sold the place in 2000, but the guy I sold it to went bankrupt in 2008. The bank was going to put a lock on the doors, but Karl Wolf and I stepped in to help.”
Lomanto said that both he and Wolf wanted to buy the lanes back, fix the place up, and then hand it over to John Marshall. “We poured a lot of money into the place, and the customers responded,” he said. “Karl and I both shared the same vision, but we had different strategies that meshed well.”
Lomanto and Wolf leased the lanes originally with plans on eventually buying it back, but they ended up not being able to buy the center back from the bank, which instead opened the sale up for other bids. Eventually, four of six bidders dropped out, leaving the Lomanto/Wolf duo along with the current ownership. “The bank kept pushing the price up, so Karl’s wife reminded us that we weren’t spring chickens, so we stepped out as well,” Lomanto said. “We always had a loyal customer base that supported us 100 percent.”
Lomanto, 71, moved his pro shop out of Perry Lanes to Arterial Lanes in Gloversville and just recently retired from that aspect of the sport. He remains a part-owner and manager of Hales Mills Country Club. “I became a golfer late in life. I love it, and I love being around golfers,” Lomanto said.
Perry Lanes not only hosted many leagues and parties but was also at one time the primary home lanes for Johnstown High School and Fulton-Montgomery Community College. The only two bowling centers remaining in Fulton County are both in Gloversville – Starlite Lanes and Arterial Lanes.
Many bowlers who frequented Perry Lanes voiced their frustration with the closing on social media. “I used to bowl there for years when the Lomantos owned it,” said Carol Hillabrandt in a Facebook message. “I feel bad because it was very popular. But I heard that lately the building wasn’t being taken care of, so I’m not surprised. I wish someone would buy it and start the bowling alley again.” She now bowls at Arterial Lanes and also at Sportsman’s Bowl.
Connie Hladik and her husband bowled at Perry Lanes for 43 years. “We are very upset that it is closing,” she said in a Facebook message. “Jim and Rose Lomanto were great people, and their son, Roy, also did a great job when he had charge of the business. We spent a lot of time there both on league bowling and tournaments,” she said. “It is very sad for all of us to see it close.”
Starlite Lanes owner Lew LaBahn also wasn’t surprised by Perry Lanes’ closing.
“It’s said, but not unexpected,” he said. “We’ve seen so many centers close over the last 20 years, and Perry is just the latest victim. The three houses in the Gloversville/Johnstown area survived amazingly well, which says a lot about the dedication of this area’s bowlers.”
Reach Bob Weiner at Weindog58@gmail.com.