Bowling Bash to highlight Chilli Bowl closing April 18

Marianne Gillespie
mgillespie@timestoday.com
A large sign at the front of the Chilli Bowl property on Truitt Avenue marks the closing of a landmark in Chillicothe.

If only the 12 lanes of the Chilli Bowl could speak.

With about five decades of being a gathering place, learning to bowl, a place for first dates, PE classes, birthday parties and lots more, the fun appears to be ending at 615 W. Truitt Ave.

It even has battle scars to show.

By Lane 1, a hole in the wall is evidence of a group of guys having a little too much fun.

The computer keeps track of how fast a ball is thrown and an overzealous patron had the ball fly off his hand and into the wall. Another member of the party said he would get patching material. Owners Danny and Shawna Colwell decided not to patch the hole and leave it for nostalgia.

It has not been a secret that the Colwells are closing the business in less than two weeks, and at this point, do not have a buyer for the business. They do have an interested party, Shawna Colwell said, but could not comment on if the building would be used for a bowling alley or not.

The decision to close the Chilli Bowl has not been an easy one for the Colwells, Shawna Colwell said. It has been on the market for two years, including locally and nationally.

Many items factored into their decision.

“The main reason is we’re trying to change our priorities,” she said.

Her husband suffered a stroke a few years ago, putting caring for their family at the forefront.

“We need to make this decision for our family,” she said.

And then there’s a decline in bowling in general.

Residents now can bowl in their living rooms or basements using Wii bowling, which simulates a bowling experience.

She also credits a shift in parents being involved in their children’s multiple activities and not taking the time for an activity for themselves like they used to years ago.

In 2008 when the economy tanked, some residents did not have the expendable income needed to bowl.

“Bowling’s not a cheap sport, but I don’t think people realize how expensive it is,” she said.

Just to replace the pins costs several thousand dollars.

Even food costs on the restaurant side of the business were increasing, although she said the restaurant was “going strong.”

Shawna Colwell said she owes the dozen or so employees a “huge debt of gratitude” for their time working at the Chilli Bowl.

“They have allowed us to step back and have some relief from it. My staff is phenomenal and it was very difficult for me. I told them before the leagues started (that we were closing) and they understood. They’re more like family.”

After Danny Colwell’s stroke, Sandy Luckett and Abbey Henderson stepped up to keep the business operating, she said, as she cared for her husband.

He recovered, went back to work at J.T. Fennell Co. and took his seat as an alderman on the Chillicothe City Council.

She found time to run with the Chillicothe St. Jude Runs team.

The couple continued welcoming families and children to the bowling alley for school activities and field trips, leagues on Sunday afternoon and children’s birthday parties.

“Danny and I are very family oriented,” she said.

She sees children tug on their mother’s arm around town and say, “Mom, that’s the bowling alley lady.”

Being called the “bowling alley lady” makes her chuckle.

The couple bought the business in June 2006 from Mel and Dorothy Dierdorff.

The Colwells had wanted to own a business, but Danny Colwell was more strategic in which business they should consider, and when they heard the Chilli Bowl was up for sale, he was interested.

He grew up bowling at the Chilli Bowl in the junior league.

Shawna Colwell called her bowling “inconsistent.” Their children, Hallie, Lexi and Colton, take after their father in that they all are good bowlers, she said.

She did, however, surprise them as the singles handicap winner of a tournament, which she said means she must have been able to focus, which is difficult when running a bowling alley.

Once the doors close, she plans to do more massage therapy work with her business SPAcific Kneads.

She also will help her oldest daughter, who is attending nursing school and expecting her second child this summer. The Colwells’ two younger children will be at Northwestern University in the fall after their youngest graduates in May.

She also plans to work in her garden and finish removing wallpaper in her home.

For a final weekend send off, residents are invited to the Bowling Blowout Friday and Saturday.

All games are $1.50 and the regular price of shoe rental, $1.50, will be donated to St. Jude.

Luckett’s son, Derek Masterson, will deejay Friday night.

The next few weeks may be an emotional roller coaster ride for the community, the Colwells and their staff.

At a recent Relay For Life charity tournament, it hit Shawna Colwell.

“It choked me up. I like the community. I like the patrons. It’s hard to be the one closing the book,” she said.

The Chilli Bowl will close at 2 p.m. April 18.

“Danny and I appreciate the support of the community. In general, everyone has been very, very supportive. Our staff is the best,” she said.

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Send us your favorite remembrances, including photos, of time spent at the Chilli Bowl throughout the decades.

We’ll print as many as possible and put all of them online. Email your submission to ctb@timestoday.com or drop them off at our office at 300 W. Pine St. (with HairMasters) by noon April 17. Please include a name and phone number in case more information is needed.