Haja Lanes in Palmerton closing
Haja Lanes at 614 Delaware Ave. in Palmerton has been sold to Posh Properties, Bethlehem. As of April 20, it will be closed to the public.
Bowlers warm up just prior to the start of their league Monday at Haja Lanes in Palmerton. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS
Several handfuls of bowlers could be spotted inside Haja Lanes in Palmerton on Monday as they prepared to compete in their bowling league.
Unfortunately for them, the time spent at the bowling alley they’ve come to love is about to come to an end now that it’s been sold.
Jim Haja, owner of Haja Lanes, said Tuesday that Posh Properties, of Bethlehem, has purchased the bowling alley.
“They are a property development company, and are actually developing it for a tenant or tenants,” Haja said. “They really aren’t going to be operating it themselves.”
Haja said there had been a lot of rumors flying around.
“The big name that has been floating around was St. Luke’s, and they never even contacted me,” he said. “It’s possible with something that size you’ll end up with multiple entities in it.”
Haja added, “I wouldn’t rule out that they (St. Luke’s) won’t be in there. At this point, I know nothing of who’s coming in.”
St. Luke’s has not commented on the building.
“Nothing is 100 percent definite at this point,” he said. “We have a basic agreement signed.”
Haja said that as of April 20, Haja Lanes will be closed to the public. He declined to disclose how much the facility sold for.
“I kept a reasonable price,” he said. “Considering the age of the building, it’s a fair price.”
Haja said there was a time when he never dreamed he would sell the building.
“It’s something I never foresaw,” he said. “I was hoping to pass it on to my family.”
Haja, of Palmerton, said the building was constructed in 1961, ironically the same year he was born.
He said there have been three owners over the years: Originally it was owned by a doctor and an undertaker, then it was purchased by Pencor Services, and Haja then purchased the building from Pencor, and settled on Dec. 31, 1984.
“This is my 35th year that I’ve been there as an owner,” he said. “I worked there before that.”
However, Haja noted the sport has seen a sharp decline in the level of interest.
“Bowling just in general is not what it used to be,” he said, adding that they used to have 200 kids in their junior program. “Now there’s not 200 kids total in the entire Palmerton Area Bowling Association, which entails Palmerton, Slatington, Lehighton and Danielsville.”
Haja explained why he believes the sport has experienced such a steep drop-off.
“The biggest thing that I’ve found is nobody today, and this is not just bowling, wants to commit to anything,” he said. “Nobody wants to join anything.”
That, despite statistics that show that bowling is the number one participating sport in the United States, as Haja said more people bowl than in any other sport.
As an example, Haja said some bowlers might come in to bowl two or three times a year, compared to 20 years ago when they’d come every week.
“It’s not dead, but it’s changed,” he said. “And the population that is involved is aging, the league bowlers just are dwindling.”
Haja said the alley currently has four employees, himself and three part-timers.
“The biggest thing that’s always kept me involved is the people,” he said. “I’ve made so many friendships, acquaintances over the years.”
Haja said some of his fondest memories of the sport include bowling in different tournaments, noting that there were teams from Palmerton that set records that he doesn’t believe have been broken to this day, including a team that set the state legion record for scoring back in the 1990s.
“I got involved in high school. The neatest thing was you played high school sports, and in bowling, everybody got to play,” he said. “When you joined a league, you were involved immediately; that was the biggest thing, that’s kind of why I really took it up and got involved in the beginning.”
Haja said he still owns the Haja Rose Bowl in Allentown.
“It’s not like I’m getting out of bowling altogether,” he said. “I still plan on running the center down there; the population density down there is so much greater.”
For Haja, April 30 marks the last day he will be the owner of the Palmerton facility.
“I’m going to miss it; it’s kind of bittersweet,” he said. “I spent 35-plus years at the place; it’s even a hard decision to get out at this point.
“At my age, I don’t know that I’ll ever see a return on investment if I put more money into it.”
Haja said there are several leagues underway at the alley.
“League bowling is down drastically,” he said. “It’s drastically changed from what it was 20 years ago.”
Monday night at the bowling alley, several bowlers reacted to the news of the alley being sold.
Jim Kindrew, of Palmerton, said he’s been bowling at the alley for about 36 years.
“It’s close to home,” Kindrew said. “I like being around the people.”
Kindrew said the sale of the alley is simply a sign of the times, noting that bowling isn’t as big as it had been years earlier.
“For a smaller town like this, it’s kind of petered out,” he said. “The Monday night league used to have almost all the lanes full; now it’s down to a small league.”
Once the alley closes, Kindrew said he’ll have to look elsewhere to continue doing what he enjoys.
“I’ll look to bowl somewhere else,” he said. “I like to bowl; I’ve been doing it a long time.”
So, too, has Harriet Visnosky of Palmerton, who has bowled at the alley for nearly 50 years in leagues.
“I can’t believe it,” Visnosky said. “I love the people.”
Visnosky said the sport offers good exercise.
“I love to bowl,” she said. “It’s a heartbreaker.”
Linda Strohl of Walnutport said she’s been bowling for 50 years, and that she first bowled at the facility in 1966 when it was known as the Zinc Bowl.
“We’re going to miss this place,” Strohl said. “We’re just here to have fun.”
Once the alley closes, Strohl said she’ll continue bowling.
“I just don’t know where,” she said.