"If you've been around northwest Denver, you know: The people who come in here are so much nicer than the average person." Cal Eichinger, owner of Elitch Lanes, is already lamenting the loss of his customers. On May 17, after more than sixty years in the Berkeley neighborhood, Elitch Lanes will close up shop. But Eichinger says he isn't done with the bowling business; he's been working in the industry for forty years, and at 63, he's nowhere near ready for retirement.
"You go manic sometimes. If you've ever been in here on a Saturday night, you know what I'm talking about," says Eichinger of the rowdy crowds. "But it's fun -- you get to know a lot of people. You have real relationships with them; you get to know the grandmother and grandfather, and then get to know the next generation and the next. It's cool." He's hoping that his beloved customers will follow him to his next bowling alley, which should be just a few miles away...but since the deal isn't sealed yet, he's not giving out details.
The Elitch family opened Elitch Lanes in 1952, just across from the old amusement park; it changed hands several times before Eichinger bought the business about thirteen years ago, after working his way through the ranks of a large bowling-alley chain. Once he'd gotten to the top of the corporate bowling world, he'd realized that he just wanted his own spot. He wanted to be around people. "Who cares if you're not a regional manager overseeing 100 bowling centers?" asks Eichinger. "There are certain things that go with that, like self-importance. But I'd rather be here, especially with these people."
Like the business, the building that houses Elitch Lanes has been bought and sold a few times over -- and the most recent owner took an offer to put something there in place of the beloved bowling alley. (And, no, it's not another Punch Bowl Social, which has been rumored.) But there's still plenty of time to get a few frames in at this incarnation of Elitch Lanes.
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