Pawtucket's retro bowling alley already a destination attraction

Pawtucket's retro bowling alley already a destination attraction

Cecily Russo, of Cranston, prepares to let loose on her duckpin lane at the new Breaktime Bowl & Bar last Saturday at the Hope Artiste Village. (Valley Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

PAWTUCKET - They thought a throwback bowling alley would be a popular spot, but nothing like this.

Breaktime Bowl & Bar has been a magnet for those seeking an old-fashioned good time since it opened just after Christmas, says Manager Jay Santos, and the steady stream of bowlers doesn't look like it will let up anytime soon.

Perhaps it's the novelty of having workers manually setting up your pins, or perhaps it's the raw, uncluttered interior free of dancing turkeys or black lights, but people seem to love Pawtucket's newest - and oldest - bowling alley, said Santos.

Michael Gazdacko, director of development and operations at the Hope Artiste Village, where Breaktime Bowl & Bar is located at 1005 Main St., said it's "been crazy" at Breaktime since the day it opened. During a grand opening celebration last Friday, there was a 90-minute wait and a limit of one hour of playing time instead of the standard two, he said.

Gazdacko said it was the intention from the time Urban Smart Growth bought the old mill in 2005 to restore the six-lane duckpin bowling alley on the third floor. The alley was one of the key selling points in buying the property.

With so many other projects now complete, and the mill flourishing with tenants like the Wintertime Farmers Market and The Met, the time was right, said Gazdacko. The restoration of an alley first built back in the 1920s for the workers of the Hope Webbing Mill has been everything he and others thought it would be, he said.

"We tried to highlight the historical elements and keep it simple," said Gazdacko. There is no automation here, he noted, so a sign was installed telling bowlers how to keep their own score for the three-ball duckpin game.

Santos and Gazdacko say they think the new bowling alley is so popular in part because families are craving a "unique activity" to do together, especially as technology increasingly acts to isolate people. Many patrons are coming at the end of the farmers market and staying for hours, they said.

The entire facility is full of reclaimed lumber, original exposed brick, and painting in the same color scheme that the bowlers of the 1920s would have seen. The bar top was made of reclaimed flooring from another mill. The original lanes were sanded smooth and stained to play much like modern lanes. Balls and pins meant to be as much like the original ones as possible were purchased from Paramount Industries in Medway, Mass.

Paired with a newly completed function hall on the second floor, staff at the mill see the bowling alley as an attraction for weddings, bachelor/bachelorette parties and other events.

While children are welcome for daytime bowling, said Gazdacko and Santos, this is ultimately a bar and becomes an all-adult venue after 8 p.m. There's a full cocktail menu designed to resemble one from the prohibition era and a very popular menu of local and regional beers.

Though the owners broke a bit with history by adding televisions to the walls, those TVs will generally play an "eclectic mix" of old movies and retro bowling events. The occasional big sporting event, like the Patriots game last Saturday, will also be on, they promised.

The cost for one lane at Breaktime for one hour, with six people maximum on a lane, is $15, and there are no bowling shoes to rent, making this one of the cheaper bowling options around. Rubber-soled shoes are required. Owners may expand hours and increase prices if the popularity of the lanes continues.

Breaktime Bowl & Bar is open Thursday and Friday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Reservations are recommended on Friday and Saturday. Call 844-467-3383. For more visit www.breaktimebowlandbar.com .

Michael Gazdacko, left, director of development and operations at the Hope Artiste Village and Jay Santos, manager at Breaktime Bowl & Bar, say the popularity of their new retro bowling alley has exceeded expectations, continuing the successful transformation of the old Hope Webbing Mill.
The bar at Breaktime Bowl & Bar is a popular place, even during the day when the Wintertime Farmers Market is in progress.
"Lane setters" Derek Laliberte, of Pawtucket, left, and Maddy Trudeau, of Cumberland, say they love their job setting up the pins at the Breaktime Bowl & Bar at the Hope Artiste Village. They said they only get hit by a ball or pin every once in a while, and it doesn't hurt much.