Daly City bowling alley closes, displaces Nikkei bowlers

After 51 years in business, the Daly City, Calif.-based Serra Bowl closed on April 15. photo by Heather Ito/Nichi Bei Weekly

For more than 50 years, Serra Bowl in Daly City, Calif. has been entertaining bowlers and families alike with its welcome, competitive atmosphere and its dedication and commitment to the surrounding community.

Among the 35 different bowling leagues that have taken root at the bowling center, the 72-member Nikkei league made Serra Bowl its home for its weekly league plays for members that bowled there, as well as its tournaments and association meetings.

Now, to the dismay of many people, this orange and purple landmark closed its doors to the public for the last time on April 15 because the lease could not be renewed.

“We just got to the point where there was no way our landlord was gonna write another lease with us and for what reason, I have no clue,” said Rex Golobic, the 88-year-old owner of Serra Bowl.

Golobic said he began discussing the lease renewal with the landlord, Joseph Conti, two years ahead of time, but they failed to reach a negotiation.

“I just think the property owner is doing a very selfish thing,” 30-year-old Cathy Dacanay said. “Yeah, it might be for the money, but there’s things that are more important than money, like your community.”

Conti was not available for comment.

“I find (Serra Bowl’s closure) to be one of the most devastating things that has happened,” said Tamlyn Murata, a 23-year-old Nikkei league member who bowled at the center for four years.

Robert Hiraoka Jr., Jodi Hiraoka and Nicki Hiraoka. photo by Hiromi Chiyoda

Murata’s reaction echoes that of several others who grew up with the center, including 47-year-old Jodi Hiraoka, a Nikkei league bowler since 1988 who met her husband while he worked the front desk at Serra Bowl.

“It’s more than just a sport, it’s more than just a facility,” 41-year-old Joel Ranan said. “It’s really a place where people come to meet other people.”

Ranan and Dacanay are members of the Good Timers league, one of the many other leagues that must now make one of the remaining bowling houses, like Classic Bowling Center in Daly City, Calif., its new home.

Serra Bowl’s closure is déjà vu for some Nikkei league bowlers who had to move to Serra Bowl after Japantown Bowl closed more than 10 years ago. The San Francisco Japanese American community — which had rallied to try to save the Japantown Bowl — lost the Post and Webster street corner property after John McInerney, then a city Board of Appeals commissioner, bought it from Kintetsu Enterprises Co. of America and subsequently developed market-rate housing at the location.

Fortunately, moving from Japantown Bowl to Serra Bowl was a “natural, easy transition” for the Nikkei league members, said Darlene “Dar” Masamori, a 54-year-old Nikkei league bowler and president of the San Francisco Nisei Bowling Association (SFNBA).

Other Nikkei league bowlers, like 81-year-old Amy Teragawa, agree that moving their game to Serra Bowl was easy. Teragawa, who is also a secretary for the SFNBA, has been playing with the league since she began bowling in the late 1970s.

“Everybody enjoyed going there,” she said. “We enjoyed having our tournaments there because the staff is so compatible.”

Teragawa, who is also a member of the Golden Gate Ladies 500 Club, said Serra Bowl was also the home to the club’s tournament.

According to Masamori, the easy move had a lot to do with the help the owners of the house, Rex and Reiko Golobic, gave to every organization affiliated with Serra Bowl.

“Whatever we needed, if they could do it, they would do it for us,” she said. “The generosity just doesn’t end.”

Rex Golobic entered the bowling business after his father opened his first bowling alley in Seattle years ago. After Rex and his family moved back to the Bay Area, the Golobic family opened and operated Downtown Bowl, Camino Bowl in Mountain View, Calif., and not too long after, Serra Bowl.

Currently, Rex is running Bel Mateo Bowl in San Mateo, Calif., with his wife, 66-year-old Reiko Golobic, a Nikkei league member since the 1960s and secretary of the league. Masamori said the Nikkei league would have liked to move to Bel Mateo Bowl, but since it is not part of the San Francisco Bowling Association, the league decided to move to Classic Bowling Center instead.

In addition to providing bowlers with its 51 years of bowling services, Serra Bowl was also active in the community. Mike Leong, Serra Bowl general manager and a 30-year member of the Nikkei league, said its closing is “definitely an end of an era as well as a major loss to the community and the sport of bowling.”

One of the center’s most noted annual community events was “Kops N Kids Day,” where police officers would come to the center and bowl with the children. According to Reiko Golobic, they also had fire trucks and helicopters stationed outside the center that the children could climb through, as well as police dog demonstrations.

Serra Bowl also hosted a Turkey Bowl, in which turkeys were donated to a local food pantry, as well as a Junior Achievement day.
These events, Reiko Golobic said, were all free for the children.

“This lawyer was telling me (that) these things really help the community keep the kids off the streets,” she said.

Bowlers and residents made an effort to try to save the bowling alley. According to the Golobics, a rally of about 500 people, including the Golobics, occurred in the alley’s parking lot on March 31. People held banners, marched in the parking lot, sang songs and shared their memories in support of the bowling alley.

Despite the efforts, 29-year-old Aaron Kitashima did not believe enough was done at the rally.

“I personally believe the rally to save the bowl was a total joke, with very little media attention, no local government leaders present and shunning us away from holding signs at the nearest major intersection,” Kitashima said in an e-mail interview.

Kitashima began bowling at Serra Bowl on a once-a-month basis in January, but wrote several blog posts about the alley’s closing on his blog, Akit’s Complaint Department.

A GATHERING PLACE — Serra Bowl, of Daly City, Calif., closed on April 15. A carnival took place on the bowling alley’s lot during its final weekend. photo by Heather Ito/Nichi Bei Weekly

The last event held at Serra Bowl during its last weekend was the Daly City Carnival, where many people gathered to play games and eat carnival food in the alley’s lot.

While the senior members of the Nikkei league were upset by the news of Serra Bowl’s closing, they were also concerned with finding a new venue. “Of course they were shocked by that news, but their next question is ‘well, where are we going to bowl?’” Masamori said.

Teragawa said that one of the biggest problems the Nikkei league will have with moving to Classic Bowling Center is the parking.

“A lot of people, outsiders, comment that ‘if you have your tournament there we’re not coming’ because parking is so bad,” she said. “If we go there to bowl Wednesday nights, you’re lucky if you can find a space right away.”

Teragawa said that the Nikkei league that’s already running there on Wednesdays take up most of the parking spaces, and added that the bowling center shares its lot with a market and a restaurant.

Despite the obstacles the Nikkei league faces moving two of its leagues to the Classic Bowling Center, Masamori said everything should be OK in the end.

“You know, we’re strong as a Nisei association, so I think, no matter where we’ll go, it’ll be OK,” she said. “We’ll make it work.”

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