Struggling PV Bowl nearing demolition to make way for new Torrance retail center
by Bradley Bermont

The world was different when George Brandt founded Palos Verdes Bowl in 1958. Back then, 10 bowling centers were scattered about the South Bay, he said. Now there are only three, and soon — if all goes well for Brandt — there will be only two.

Palos Verdes Bowl will be the next to fade away, he said.

“It’s time,” said Brandt, now 76 years old. “It was time 10 years ago.”

Brandt, who has worked at the bowling alley for more than 50 years, is hoping to make the transition from business owner and manager to landlord.

Demolition expected soon

An architecture firm hired by Brandt and his two corporate partners — Industrial Bowling and Ivanhoe Investments — recently submitted plans to the city to demolish the bowling alley on Crenshaw Boulevard just north of Skypark Drive and and replace it with three separate businesses.

They have commitments from Aldi — a German-based grocery store chain and the parent company of Trader Joe’s — as well as fast-food giant Chick-fil-A and Kinecta Federal Credit Union.

On Wednesday, May 15, the city’s Planning Commission will discuss the project in a meeting open to the public. Planning staff members already have recommended that the city approve the project and Brandt doesn’t see a reason why it would be turned down.

There isn’t any sales tax on bowling, he said, so the city doesn’t make much money from the current business. On the other hand, a grocery store and fast-food chain could help offset the city’s declining sales tax revenues.

“It’s a better thing for the community,” he said. “There’s still bowling centers that are here — two of them — and I don’t think that they’re doing well. One less bowling center here might be good for both of them.”

Still, the whole venture gives Brandt mixed emotions.

On the one hand, he’s already close to retirement. And, as a fan of Chick-fil-A, he’s excited to see another one come to Torrance — but still, he spent almost his entire adult life working at the bowling alley. It’s the end of an era for him and his customers.

Well, the few customers he has left.

Struggling times for bowling

“The bowling center has a tough time,” he said. “It really does. Things are not as good as people think they are.”

For years, bowling has been an underpriced game, Brandt said. For this property to make financial sense, he said he’d have to double the prices.

“And I just can’t see where the demand is there,” he added.

That was before the shooting at Gable House Bowl in January. He didn’t think the shooting at the Hawthorne Boulevard alley in Torrance would affect his business as much as it has, but the negative publicity drove his already-low customer base into the ground.

“It’s almost like a sign that we shouldn’t be doing what we’re doing,” he said.

Plan hatched 10 years ago

Brandt said he would have demolished the place 10 years ago, which is when they came up with this plan. But, when the economy tanked, he said, it was ultimately shelved. They picked it up again about two years ago, he said.

If the project is approved by the Planning Commission, the bowling alley will eventually be demolished to make way for a complex of three buildings, owned by Brandt and his corporate partners. The grocery store will be nearly 19,000 square feet. The Chick-fil-A, which will have a drive-thru, will be about 3,700 square feet, while the credit union will be a few hundred feet smaller than that.

The city has recommended a few changes to nearby intersections and roadways to help accommodate the expected increase in traffic. They’d like to see developers pay for new left-hand turn lanes on Crenshaw, increase the nearby street lighting, and include a few new stop signs at nearby intersections, alongside other similar modifications — all fairly routine for projects of this size.