After many years, ‘The Alley’ near NC State is closing

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The pins fell for the final time Saturday at an historic Raleigh bowling center.

The Alley on Hillsborough Street closed after half a century of family fun.

Raleigh-native Chris Poole and his brother bought The Alley in 2008, and soon after took over operations of another bowling alley in Charleston.

“We came here as kids, birthday parties with friends growing up. Our entire childhood, so it was awesome to be able to take it over in 2008 and try to bring it back to life,” Poole said.

“Times are changing, lease rates are increasing, so business was doing great, but at some point it just can’t sustain the increased rent. We’ve been bought out. (The developer) is gonna turn the place into a Target, so we’ve been going out with a bang,” Poole added.

Over the years, many N.C. State University students took the school’s bowling classes at The Alley.

The Alley will auction much of its equipment Sunday at 4 p.m. Poole said the plan is to donate 25 percent of the proceeds to Team Chris Combs, which raises awareness and money for research towards a cure for ALS.

Molly Baker said she and her father hope to get a pin or two and maybe even a disco ball from the auction. They both went to The Alley for a few final frames Saturday.

“I’m pretty sad, I’m actually really glad that I’m here.  I wasn’t planning on being here, but then I found out, and I drove across town to come,” Baker said.

“I learned to bowl here. It was everything growing up. Every Friday here, regardless of where I was, I came in town for this every Friday.”

Nelly Rushton came with one of her friends whose grandfather built the bowling alley’s snack bar. The same friend worked at the bowling alley while he was in college.

“It’s really cool being here, experiencing the history. It’s a classic kind of feel, you feel like you’re time traveling back in time,” Rushton said.

“It’s just really sad that this place is not going to be here anymore,” she added.

“Everyone is kind of celebrating such a monumental place.  It’s a place with wonderful character.”

The Poole brothers are developing a new location in Durham with a shift in its business approach. Chris Poole said it will focus on a restaurant and bar, but still have eight lanes for bowling. They are saving some equipment to move there.

Poole said he looks forward to a new facility where he won’t have to spend a ton of time patching the roof, but he said it is bittersweet to leave the spot across the street from N.C. State, and friends and supporters in Raleigh.

“It’s people that have been here over and over, and you can feel that they are genuinely sad, that the place means more to them than I could ever realize. They’ve bowled here, 20, 30 years,” he said.

“It’s been remarkable to see how it’s affected people’s lives.”

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