Clinton to play struggling Wahlert; Camanche, Central DeWitt prepare for local showdown

CAMANCHE—Bowling is a family oriented sport: it's something every age can do, it's something the family can do together. Everywhere you look, especially in Camanche, you can see a father-son duo bowling leagues together, or a group of kids watching their parents.

It's only fitting that the ownership stays family-oriented, too.

"We're going to step back a little bit, my wife and I both," owner Jay Garvey said. "We spent about two and half months of going in a bit of a circle. This was always the plan, we just sped the plan up five or six years. We decided it was time to slow down a little bit."

After some personal reflection, Jay put the bowling house up for sale. That's where it sat for a bit.

"They originally put it out there, I didn't want anything to do with it," Jay's son Kenny Garvey said. "A few months passed, I kind of did some job searching and I came to the decision that I had been here since I was 16 and that's about it."

Kenny, who has been working at the bowling alley the entire time his dad has owned it, will take over ownership of Imperial Lanes after all the paperwork is official Monday. After a little bit of hedging, both father and son are happy with how the deal has worked out.

"We were more than happy to keep it in the family," Jay said about when Kenny first expressed his interest. "It was fantastic. I would have been okay either way, but I was very pleased."

It's probably a relief for some of their frequent customers, too. The small town uses the bowling alley for meeting, parties, fundraisers, the hub for their MDA weekend, and so much more. Knowing exactly who will be at the helm and knowing that no drastic change is coming is just a comfort.

"When we bought it, they told us it's kind of the center point, the focal point of the town," Jay said about Imperial lanes. "It's the bowling alley: it's hardly ever called by name but it's the bowling alley. Everyone knows where it's at and it's one of the center gatherings for family."

Plus, it will make the transition almost non-existent. After all, after a decade of working under his father, Kenny knows the place like the back of his hand.

"I'll have a little bit more day-to-day business, but as far as familiarity I've been here for ten years, as long as my dad has," Kenny said. "I know if I ever have any questions I can ask him. I'm not taking over from a stranger or going in blindly."

Jay thought about some of the highlights of the last ten years, including the MDA event that raises huge amounts of money each year, the first time they got the junior state tournament to come, or the fact that the women's state tournament is back for the second time in three years.

"We'll remember all of those forever," Jay said.

After a decade, Jay and his wife aren't about to completely abandon such a huge part of their life. They are both going to continue to help out part time. They are looking forward to a little bit less stress, but are glad to not be leaving it behind.

After all, even if Kenny wasn't taking over, they still have a family at the bowling alley.

"It will be relaxing. It's time to relax a little bit," Jay said. "I would say I would miss the people, but I'm not leaving. We have a lot of good friends here and we've met a lot of good people in this area, so we'll still get to enjoy all of that."

That might be the best part of walking into Imperial Lanes, whether you're their to throw a couple or if you're just there for some food and drink: the people.

"It's very relaxed. Everyone knows you. You're working with the public, but almost never working with strangers," Kenny said. "I enjoy it, and I enjoy the customers and the people I deal with it."

The fact that the house will stay in the family is just a testament to the familiarity the sport has to offer, and of the overall camaraderie of the town. It is after all, a special place.

"I this move ... it shows the importance of family, and of being close knit," Kenny said. "It shows a security aspect of it because it's not as simple as getting rid of it. It's a handed down to someone you trust to take care of it."

The duo is planning a "re-opening" on Oct. 6, to celebrate the move.