Unfortunately perhaps, East Hampton Bowl was just the kind of place you did not think about much — or miss until it was gone. This dawned on me as I was driving west on an errand early Sunday. One word on the classic road sign said it all: Closed.
East Hampton Bowl had been shuttered at the end of June after 54 years. My first thought was of my son, Ellis, who is 3. He had been there a few times but would in all likelihood never be there again. It was a melancholy moment.
I would not go so far as to call it a rite of passage, but for several generations of East Hampton-area kids, bowling was part of childhood, whether for a friend’s birthday or a rainy-day diversion. There was something about the place that set it apart from other South Fork’s diversions: the absence of daylight, the loud pop music, its connection to what seemed an earlier, more innocent America.
Last month, the bowling alley’s owner, Craig Patterson, said that costs and a difficult environment in which to run a business helped him make the decision to close. League play, once a dependable source of East Hampton Bowl’s income, was down, he said, as was general attendance, thanks perhaps to the recession. Crazy-high bills for electricity may have played a role, too.
The property, as you might imagine, is valuable, what with the huge parking area, good highway exposure, and a fully functional bar with ample space for a pool table and live music. When our reporter was working on a story about the place’s demise, Mr. Patterson told her that he had turned down as many as seven real estate offers a month.
What will happen to the property now is anybody’s guess. I’d prefer it to remain a bowling alley; the nearest one is in Riverhead, and on a blustery November day when the kids said they had nothing to do, it was a godsend for parents. But in truth, going perhaps only two or three times a year, we were not going to make the difference. If East Hampton Bowl were to reopen by some miracle, I would vow to make it there more often.