AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dart Bowl closing last week became a hard hit in the gut-ters for hundreds of league bowlers who called its lanes home.
Dart Bowl co-owner John Donovan felt sad, heartbroken and guilt making the decision to close, but customers dwindled due to COVID-19 state orders and fears, he said.
“We keep seeing that throughout this year, and past years, but this year particularly. Little pieces of Austin are chipping away. It’s eroding and nothing’s back right now, nothing’s coming back in their place to possibly fill the shoes that were left so we’ll see where that takes us, but yeah, these are 62 years of operation from the original location, uh, gone. And so I don’t want to see that happen,” Jody Carter said.
Donovan’s decision “came out of nowhere, really quick,” Carter said.
“I kept hearing throughout the last week, ‘where were y’all?’ And it’s COVID season out there and that’s where we were. We were trying to keep everybody safe… I think it was asking too much to open and expect too much.”
He was at the bowling alley last week talking to employees.
“They didn’t know that they were without a job until Tuesday… some of them not until Wednesday. They had a four-day notice,” Carter said.
Those conversations weighed on him, especially because he’s a past Dart Bowl employee and league bowler.
“They’re all family. I’ve known them for 25 years. Almost everybody there. I felt like I needed to do something for them,” he said.
For him, the bowling alley is filled with memory lanes.
“It’s 25 years of memories. Like I said, I worked there… It’s across the street from my high school… The house I own, I bought from a bowler… My life wouldn’t be what it is without the friends and family of Dart Bowl,” he said.
So, he started a fundraiser for the bowling alley, cafe and pro shop less than a week after each door closed. His goal is $10,000 — all funds will go toward the recently let-go employees of the three companies under one roof.
“This is to help them transition to where, I expect, they’ll have to find a new job unless something miraculous happens and everyone comes back to Dart Bowl,” Carter said with a grin. “My home has been taken away, but I’m not finished believing that it will be back, so I’m still hopeful it can come back and come back stronger.”
He’s also taken to social media to voice his concerns and stance:
“We’ve hugged, we’ve cried, it’s emotional and I used to be there right with them. And so… that’s how I feel for them,” Carter said.
The closure affected hundreds of league bowlers. He said the issue now is “where are people gonna go?” Other alleys with reduced lanes for safety are trying to make room for the Dart Bowl bowlers with staggered playing times, but Carter said, “that’s still not really enough.”
So he continues to hope for the possibility of Dart Bowl reopening and a little piece of Austin to return.