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Largo bowlers, Twedt's is closed

Twedt’s Lanes, in business for 46 years, joins a long list of bowling centers in the area that have closed. “We’re a small center, a very close-knit group,” said Chris Springstead, head mechanic and assistant manager. “It’s like a big family here.”

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Twedt’s Lanes, in business for 46 years, joins a long list of bowling centers in the area that have closed. “We’re a small center, a very close-knit group,” said Chris Springstead, head mechanic and assistant manager. “It’s like a big family here.”

LARGO — For 46 years, they've been throwing strikes at Twedt's Lanes. The bowling alley opened in 1967, two whole decades before Largo Mall was built across the street from it.

But now the pink-colored building with the bowling pin-shaped sign out front has closed its doors for good.

Located at 13100 Seminole Blvd. just south of Ulmerton Road, Twedt's Lanes is going to be demolished to make way for yet another strip mall.

The bowling alley's owner, Bobbie Stealy, has accepted a $1.85 million offer from a buyer who's planning a retail center with restaurants and shops.

The closing of Twedt's (pronounced "tweets") makes it the eighth bowling alley in Pinellas County to shut down in the past dozen years. Only a handful are left.

Rainbow Lanes in Clearwater went bankrupt. AMF Kenneth City Lanes closed. So did Largo Lanes and Tarpon Lanes. Skyway Lanes in St. Petersburg is now a Family Dollar and an Auto Zone. Pinellas Park lost Southland Lanes as well as the Sunshine Bowl, which is now a Walmart Neighborhood Market on U.S. 19.

"We've had quite a few close," said Stealy, who still owns Ten Pin Lanes in South Pasadena. "Lifestyles have changed. People have more entertainment at home. The income levels have not bounced back for our clientele. It used to be you opened the doors and the place would be crowded, but not anymore."

Chris Springstead, head mechanic and assistant manager at Twedt's, blames Xbox and PlayStation for all the closings.

"We're a small center, a very close-knit group," Springstead said. "It's like a big family here. We know a vast majority of the bowlers by name."

Now Twedt's is gone, too. Springstead is baffled that someone wants to build a strip mall in its place. "The one next door has three openings."

The property was bought last month by a company based in Kansas City, Mo., calling itself Legacy Largo, according to Pinellas County property records.

The new owners have spoken to Largo officials about their plans to bring a couple of restaurants, a nutrition store and other retail businesses to the site, said Teresa Brydon, the city's economic development manager. "My understanding is they've lined up some good tenants for that location," she said.

The bowling leagues at Twedt's are migrating to Liberty Lanes on Starkey Road. At this point, bowlers' remaining options in Pinellas County include Liberty, Ten Pin, Countryside Lanes, AMF Clearwater Lanes, Sunrise Lanes and Seminole Lanes.

The original owners of Twedt's Lanes, Roy Twedt and Bobby Kirk, opened the 16-lane center in 1967. Kirk bought out Twedt when he retired in 1979. Stealy bought out Kirk when he retired in 1998.

Stealy felt that she had to accept the $1.85 million offer for her property.

"I can't imagine why we need more strip malls, but I just couldn't turn it down. I want to retire," she said. "The property has become too valuable. The income from a bowling center just doesn't justify the expense. The profit margin's not there. It's a pretty tough nut to crack."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Largo bowlers, Twedt's is closed 09/13/13 [Last modified: Friday, September 13, 2013 4:50pm]
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