Family Bowl owners preparing to sell to Mass. developer

Waterford — After nearly 50 years of running a duckpin bowling alley and multiple other businesses on a 4-acre parcel off the Boston Post Road, the family that owns Family Bowl is planning to sell.

Jerry Picardi, whose family has owned Family Bowl and several other nearby businesses for decades, said he has signed a contract to sell the property to a Massachusetts developer.

The details of the deal won’t be final until Waterford’s Planning and Zoning Commission approves the permits Kincora Development needs to start building.

Until then, Picardi said Monday, the bowling alley will remain open three or four days a week.

But Picardi said he has already told the few remaining bowling teams who have used the alley as a home base for decades that they may need to find a new place to bowl by next year.

“We looked into the future and just saw that bowling has been stagnant for years,” Picardi said. “I just didn’t feel like (there) was the support system throughout the state to have duckpin continue.”

The Picardi family bought several buildings near Family Bowl in the late 1960s, and the bowling alley two years later.

For decades, Jerry Picardi’s parents, Anna and Jerry Sr., and his brother, Tony, ran the bowling alley and owned a nightclub, a fish market, a Radio Shack and a food establishment in various buildings on the property off the Boston Post Road opposite Clark Lane. 

Family Bowl was the first bowling alley in the state to get a liquor license when it added a bar on the side, Jerry Picardi said Monday.

Picardi and his brothers took over Family Bowl after their parents died and have tried to make it a welcoming environment for bowlers, even ones who couldn’t pay, he said.

“We did whatever we could with the community,” he said. “It’s not like we were a chain business — it was a family business … we wanted to help.”

But as bowling alleys have started to more closely resemble entertainment centers, and duckpin bowling has failed to attract younger generations of fans, business has been bad, he said.

“Years and years ago, we had many junior leagues,” he said. “We had them on Saturday mornings, we had them on Sunday nights.”

"But all of a sudden, you have no more junior leagues,” he said.

The Picardis have done their best to attract new customers with light shows, 10-pin lanes, a pub and attempts to create local high school teams.

“I can just go on and on and on with different things that went through that bowling alley,” he said. “I’m so proud of it.”

The efforts kept the lanes afloat for years, Picardi said, but any success they had for themselves couldn’t hold against bowling’s declining popularity.

“The bowling industry has been going down steadily,” he said, pointing to new technology like Wii, which offers a virtual bowling game people can play using their television and a small remote.

“You can bowl at home if you want,” Picardi said.

Family Bowl will stay open until the Waltham-based Kincora Development is ready to start building, Picardi said.

That could take months, he said.

Kincora Development president William H. McCabe confirmed the sale contract with the Picardis and said his company will present its plans for its property to the Planning and Zoning Commission May 23.

Family Bowl won’t officially close until the permits are approved and development is set to begin, Picardi said.

But anyone who wants to knock down a few more pins should come by on a weekend afternoon, he added.

m.shanahan@theday.com

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