On most days of the week, PoCo Bowl is alive with the enthusiasm — and noise — of bowlers competing for top scores.
The crash of the pins, rolling balls, some straight as an arrow, some a bit wobbly, would greet patrons upon entering the cinder-block building with its distinctive brick front and orange paint.
But in recent weeks, as COVID-19 has required a temporary shutdown of 5-pin league play, the place is sometimes quiet, although small family groups can still book a lane.
Still, business has been challenged in recent months, says co-owner Angela Madaski, who hopes that bowlers will come back to help the storied bowling alley celebrate its 70th anniversary.
Not all businesses have such a long pedigree. In Port Coquitlam, PoCo Bowl is not just a fun place to go, it’s a local landmark, where people of all ages and abilities go to bowl a strike or spare while avoiding the merciless gutter ball.
RESERVE YOUR LANE
“We have been around a long time in Port Coquitlam and we're a fixture, I hope people will come back and support us,” said Madaski, who operates PoCo Bowl at 2263 McAllister Avenue with her brother Curtis and sister Ashley Madaski.
Built in 1950 by the Beattie and Froland families, PoCo Bowl was bought by Mel Madaski and his mother, Mabel Madaski in 1959. Brian Madaski took over the business in 1977. In 2019, after 42 years, Brian decided it was time to retire and his children took over.
Now they are inviting the public to book ahead for one of seven available lanes, spaced apart according to Dr. Bonnie Henry rules, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 19 and 20.
They’ll be able to bowl their first game for just 25 cents, a throwback to when the centre first opened in 1950, and celebrate with free popcorn and prizes drawn throughout the weekend. It's a great game for family winter fun.
“While we can’t do a big celebration like we would have liked to, it’s important to us to find a safe way to celebrate our anniversary and recognize the great community that we’re a part of,” said Curtis Madaski.
In addition to the celebration that weekend, the bowling alley is also open for public play, during regular business hours, with plenty of hand sanitizer, space, and lots of opportunity to show off one’s bowling prowess.
TODDLERS CAN BOWL
It’s a tradition that has been popular in Port Coquitlam through the generations and Angela said she sees families coming back over the years to play a game or introduce it to their children.
Growing up at PoCo Bowl, the Terry Fox secondary graduate said she enjoyed the game — and especially loved the attention she got from the senior bowlers.
“I just lapped up all the attention,” admits Angela, who said she loves running the place because of the tradition and the joy she gets talking to people and seeing the fun they have when they bowl for league honours.
She also enjoys watching toddlers as young as three trying on bowling shoes for the first time and waddling down the composite flooring to send their five pin ball a-skitter down the alley.
“It’s an accessible sport, and something everyone can do whether you’re three or 90,” Madaski said.
Originally, the bowling centre was built with just six lanes. In 1963, four more lanes were added, and in 1968 another four were added, for a current total of 14 lanes.
Teens, called Pin Boys, used to set the pins by hands; that’s all done by machine now.
Automatic scoring was implemented in 1991 and has kept Port Coquitlam Bowl modern while keeping its old-style charm.
As one of the last remaining bowling alleys in the area, PoCo bowl has managed to stay in business through good times and bad.
Madaski said the success of the business is partly the fun-factor — it’s somewhere dry to socialize and get some exercise — and partly the commitment the business has had to the community, something that people recognize and appreciate.
“They know we’re not here just for a couple of years — we’re invested in the community,” she said.
Through sponsoring sports teams, donating to local dry grads, and auctions and fundraisers, as well as continuing support for Variety The Children’s Charity, PoCo Bowl has always been there to lend a helping hand.
For the celebration on Dec. 19, and 20, Madaski hopes others will help out, too, by bringing a food item that will be donated to the Friends in Need Food Bank.