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Harlem Lanes Bowling Alley to Close at Week's End

By Jeff Mays | August 1, 2012 8:27am

HARLEM— Harlem Lanes, a bowling alley that opened with the help of former President Bill Clinton's foundation, announced it will be closing at the end of the week.

"(U)nfortunately we are closing our doors to the lanes. We will be selling memorabilia to the public," according to the company's Twitter post late Monday night.

General manager Calvin Mumford said increasing rents for the space on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and 126th Street and the slow summer season contributed to the closure of the lanes that rely mainly on kids' parties and camps this time of year.

"They've put their blood sweat and tears into this. We've done everything we can," Mumford said about co-owner Sharon Joseph, who could not be reached for comment.

The bowling alley employed 40 people on a full-time and part-time basis, according to Mumford.

"She's a person with a very large heart," he said of Joseph. "She cringes at the thought of having to lay people off."

The 24-lane bowling alley opened in 2006 with Joseph's aunt and business partner Gail Richards as a project of the William J. Clinton Foundation Urban Enterprise Initiative — with the former president attending the ribbon-cutting.

When it opened, Harlem Lanes was the only bowling alley in the country owned by black women and was Harlem's first bowling alley in three decades. The establishment served food and was a popular gathering place for parties and lounging.

"These two women put in a tremendous amount of hard work and will serve as a model for small businesses that want to have a role in reshaping their communities," Clinton said at the time. "We remain committed to supporting economic growth in urban communities by encouraging aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their dreams into reality."

Mumford said the establishment remained busy and that people still were stopping by to book parties — but it wasn't enough to keep the business going.

"I'm sad because I know what she's put in this place, the years of sacrifice," Mumford said Joseph.

The announcement came on the same day that another well-regarded black-owned business closed its doors.

Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe on Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 124th and 125th streets announced earlier this month that it would be closing Monday due to rising rents and changes in the publishing industry.

Hue-Man CEO and co-owner Marva Allen cited a similar situation to Harlem Lanes.

Allen said business had increased 37 percent in the last year, but with rising rents, it didn't make sense to hold onto the store's physical location.

"The store will continue online," said Allen.