It’s the end of an era at Castlebowl. After 33 years at the helm, Roland and Velda Handley are handing over the keys to a new generation.
The bowling alley first opened in 1960 when Fred and Marge Bonnet moved a large, used Quonset hut to downtown Castlegar and opened the doors on Halloween. The business changed hands in 1976 when John and Erma Mykyte took over.
In 1988, the Handleys purchased the operation.
At the time, Roland was working at Cominco (Teck) and he continued to do so for the first 10 years they owned the alley.
The Handleys themselves enjoyed bowling, so when the opportunity to go into the business presented itself, Roland says they decided to “give it a whirl.”
“It’s probably the only business I would have wanted to get into,” says Roland. “You are dealing with people who are trying to have fun — to get out and enjoy themselves.”
The Handleys now look back on countless league nights, birthday parties and Christmas parties with fondness.
There have been many highlights over the years at Castlebowl. At the peak of their junior bowling program, there were 160 kids participating. Castlebowl was the first alley in the Kootenays to install automatic scoring back in the early ‘90s. They also installed a new synthetic floor seven years ago that gave a big boost to the quality of the lanes.
Over the years, the Handleys mostly handled the operation themselves with some help from their kids and eventually grandkids.
The Handley’s nephew Brandon Racette also pitched in on occassion. He and his family have now purchased the bowling alley and have moved into the apartment on the second floor.
The love of bowling isn’t the only thing the two owners have in common. Racette was also working for Teck at the time he purchased the business, and plans to continue to for a while. At 37 years old, he is also the same age Roland was when he purchased the building. Both families were also residing in Fruitvale when they made the decision to purchase the business.
“Brandon will bring a needed change — youth, energy and social media,” said Roland. “It couldn’t be in better hands.”
Racette is excited to join the bowling industry; after all, he’s been a faithful customer since he was four years old.
“It’s a solid business, it has run great for years, and people rave about [the Handleys],” he said.
Racette hopes that after a long year of staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that people will be eager to lace up their bowling shoes.
“I like to think people have realized the importance of social interaction,” said Racette.
He plans to have things fully up and running by Labour Day.