GREAT BARRINGTON — The man under contract to purchase the property housing the Cove Bowling Lanes said Thursday he has no intention of shutting down the bowling business.
But, he will expect that the Cove make upgrades. And he does expect to put a sizable portion of the north side of the building into other use.
“People know the spot. They love the spot,” said Craig Barnum, a developer from Egremont. “The elephant in the room is, it needs rejuvenation.”
Meanwhile, the Cove remains open, and Barnum expects it will remain so.
After a foreclosure auction Wednesday, Barnum is under contract to purchase the 3.7-acre property at 109 Stockbridge Road that includes the 26,012-square-foot cinder block building, which houses a 24-lane bowling alley, indoor mini golf, cocktail lounge, food stands and an arcade.
Barnum’s winning bid was $981,000.
He said he fully expects the purchase to go through.
“It’s a two- to four-week process,” he said.
Barnum, who has redeveloped old and run-down buildings throughout the county, called this particular property “one of the best sites, if not the best site, on Stockbridge Road,” the town’s northern business corridor.
“With respect to visibility, convenience of parking, quality of parking, the depth of the lot, and the ability to operate either a single, very strong business or multiple businesses here at one time, I’m very pleased,” he said.
Tom Hankey and his aunt, Juanita O’Rourke, purchased the property for $1.5 million in May 2008, under the name of Hankey O’Rourke Enterprises. They put the property up for sale for $4.5 million in 2011, $3.9 million in 2017 and $4 million in 2018, before Hankey O’Rourke Enterprises filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court in Springfield in June 2019.
“It is very important for me to convey to you and everybody that it is Tom and Juanita’s bowling business and bar business,” Barnum said. “And right now, I’m extremely pleased that they are in there, and we are having active discussions. And on top of that, I not only welcome that dialogue, which, so far, has been fantastic, I welcome all qualified dialogue that helps us accomplish a rejuvenation of this property, which is extremely important for Great Barrington.”
The Cove opened in 1960, and Barnum acknowledges its importance as a mainstay in the community.
“I believe in experiential retail,” Barnum said. “I think it’s defensible against Amazon and everything else. And I think that bowling and a sports bar element that has the ability to have some late-night utility and also a family component would be fantastic.”
The north end of the building currently houses an arcade and an indoor miniature golf course built by a former owner, Gordon “Red” McIntyre. Barnum said he plans to redevelop that space, at least 10,000 square feet in all, for other uses.
He said he would not rule out adding more space to the existing building or truncating the existing buildings where the bowling lanes end to add a separate, stand-alone building.
“I see the ability if someone wanted to do a really cool craft distillery, a craft brewery, a cider place, a combination of both,” he said. “I see experiential retail at the minimum, upgraded and rejuvenated for the locals. It also is for out-of-towners who say, ‘Hey, it’s raining’ or ‘It’s too cold to ski. Let’s go to the Cove.’ “
Barnum said he’s keeping all options on the table.
“And I really hope people are pumped up and have a lot of fun with this, right?” he said. “Let’s really have a good time with reinventing something that we all agree is a staple. The obvious element is, hey, this is a little depreciated. Well, let’s upgrade it. Those are solvable problems.”
Barnum, 36, a graduate of Mount Everett High School in Sheffield, said he, like most kids who have grown up in South County, has spent plenty of time at the Cove.
“All of us did,” he said. “We’d run all over the place in there, yeah.”