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New game for Central Whidbey bowling alley

Siblings Matt Iverson and Mimi Johnson stand in front of their six bowling lanes at Ebey Bowl.  The pair has renovated the facility and hope to reopen it in August after a 10-year closure. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Siblings Matt Iverson and Mimi Johnson stand in front of their six bowling lanes at Ebey Bowl. The pair has renovated the facility and hope to reopen it in August after a 10-year closure.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

After serving as a storage shed on Terry Road for roughly 10 years, Ebey Bowl is nearly ready to open its doors and show off its snazzy new renovation.

In October 2009, brother and sister pair Matt Iverson and Mimi Johnson bought the facility from Terry Abendroth, whose late husband Robert had been using it mainly as a storage unit.

The siblings currently own an Allstate Insurance Company branch in Oak Harbor. When asked about the reasoning for buying the bowling alley, Johnson looks to her brother.

“It was actually Matt’s idea and I just went along with it,” she said. “Everybody thought we were nuts. There were engines and some type of boat across the lanes. I walked in, and I looked at Matt, and I was like, ‘You are kidding me, right?’ The big joke is that I lost at rock, paper, scissors; that’s how we solve everything in our family.”

According to Johnson, Iverson saw the property as a good commercial investment.

The bowling alley was originally opened in November of 1959 in a squash barn built by Coupeville resident Bill Engle. Bill and his wife, Anne, decided to turn their barn into a bowling alley after Bill had suffered a couple of minor heart attacks and no longer felt he should be doing farm labor. The couple wanted to generate a new type of income, and after realizing Coupeville didn’t have any similar venues, they decided bowling was a smart choice. After some quick measurements, they found the barn could easily accommodate six lanes.

The Engles asked their daughter, Joanne Engle Brown, who was working as a teacher at the time, to say a few words at the Bowl’s grand opening. Engle Brown said she knew the bowling alley was going to be popular based on the crowd that gathered for her speech.

“I couldn’t believe how many people were there,” she said, and added she suffered some intense stage fright.

After Bill died in 1984, Anne decided to close Ebey Bowl. She sold it to another couple, but the deal was short-lived, and Anne later leased the facility to a man from Oak Harbor’s bowling alley. When he filed for bankruptcy, Anne sold the building for good in 1999 to Abendroth.

Johnson said the bowling alley was still in pretty good shape.

“Structurally everything was pretty solid,” she said. “The wood on the lanes was still really good and a new roof was constructed about six years ago. Really it was just cleaning, scrubbing, painting and giving it some much needed TLC.”

The siblings bought the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station bowling alley’s old pin setting machines after its remodel and put in some new flooring.

Now they’re working on cleaning up, adding some decorative touches and getting the kitchen in working order. Though the menu isn’t finalized, Johnson said the kitchen will offer mainly snack foods like hot dogs and nachos to start and may progress from there.

“Were not trying to make any major changes so when people walk in it will still feel like Ebey Bowl,” Johnson said.

When Iverson and Johnson bought the facility, they were thinking of renting it out for private parties only, but people didn’t like that too much.

“We’d go to the grocery store and people would be like, ‘When is it opening?! When is it opening?’ It’s kind of been community pressure.”

Now the pair plans to have the lanes open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays and said they’ll be flexible with party scheduling. Johnson is unsure if they’ll host leagues, but thinks they’ll mainly stick to public and intramural bowling.

Iverson and Johnson hope to have the bowling alley open for business in mid to late August.

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