The former Margaretville Bowl has a new owner and is undergoing an extensive transformation that will keep the retro 1960s feel of the building while adding a modern spin and amenities.
Somerville, MA native Paul W. Collyer closed on the purchase in late October and has been working steadily to transform the building constructed in 1960 as a bowling center into a multi-faceted event space — complete with a restaurant and bar, live music, movies and, of course, bowling.
Extensive work has already been undertaken, including installation of new drainage, addition of an 800-square-foot storage area and clearing of landscaping plantings in preparation of adding decks on the front and one side of the building.
Paul, assisted by an array of area contractors, has been working steadily to transform the bowling alley into a space that will be attractive to visitors on multiple levels.
Renamed The Ark Bowl and BBQ (the property is technically part of Arkville), Paul’s vision includes installation of expanded kitchen and bar area, adding windows, new entryways, dining/entertainment decks, creating a small space for live music, recreating the indoor spaces for bowlers and installing all new synthetic lanes.
It’s a large-scale project, but Paul feels the changes he’s implementing are necessary to create a facility that offers a variety of reasons to visit. Most of the changes have been on the exterior so far and Paul has been able to keep the alleys open for his league bowlers, but the business won’t be open to the general public until June or July when he expects the renovations to be complete.
Having spent more than three decades promoting music and other types of events in Massachusetts, Paul said he was ready for a change and last year began exploring business opportunities. He’s been coming to the Catskills on a regular basis for about 15 years and noted that his love of the region was actually kindled during childhood after reading the classic tale My Side of the Mountain.
“Last spring, as I started to seriously consider a ‘semi-retirement’ career, I sent out notes to brokers in the Catskills to see what kind of commercial properties were available,” Paul recalled.
Coldwell Banker Timberland Properties agent Esther de Jong was one of the respondents and provided him with information about her listing for the Margaretville Bowl, which had been owned for about 25 years by Michael Finberg.
Checking the choices
Intrigued by this prospect, Paul traveled here to check out the property and then began extensive research into the bowling business — a sport he had never tried. In a bit of irony, Paul found that the popularity of bowling had been in decline for decades and numerous establishments had gone out of business.
On the other hand, he discovered that many bowling center were enjoying resurgence thanks to makeovers that incorporated more entertainment offerings into the facilities. That model made sense to Paul and it’s the vision he’s pursuing for what he feels will be a good fit for the economic turnaround happening in the Catskills during the past few years.
“Bowling alleys are actually coming back with added flair, live music, refreshments and good food,” Paul commented. That’s the balance he’s looking to strike with his new venture.
Paul explained that there will be separate entrances for bowlers and patrons who are simply coming in for drinks or a meal. Naturally, customers will be welcome to participate in all the offerings, if they wish.
He added, “More people now go to bowling alleys for the social aspects – to enjoy a meal or a drink, even if they may not want to bowl.”
To ensure there a multitude of appeal, Paul is a planning a 10- foot-by 56-foot deck and awning across the front and an outdoor café off the western side of the building. As the name implies, BBQ will be a staple offering in the food department and he’s also planning many other menu choices with an eye on simple, quality meals. The new addition that’s in place will also include space for a smoker preparation of BBQ products. Paul has cooking experience, but says he’s planning to hire a chef among the 10-15 workers he’ll need when fully staffed.
He is also planning a number of cosmetic changes to the building, including a new paint scheme and lighting to reinforce the retro appeal of the building that traces its origins back nearly 60 years when it was started by Bob and Betty Veit as Evergreen Lanes.
In addition to long days spent working on renovations to the business, Paul is in the process of purchasing a home in the area. The two projects leave the new bowling proprietor with little “spare” time. That’s OK with Paul as he puts down real life roots in the place he’s been fascinated with since reading about a fictional escape to the Catskills.