Candle Lanes and others facing eviction

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PITTSFIELD — Candle Lanes has a month to pack up over a century of legacy.

Since 1914, candlepin bowling fans have trekked up the stairs at 255 North St., but now the owner is selling historic Wright Building and asking tenants to leave.

George Aslan, who's owned Candle Lanes since 1976, said he just put over $4,000 in repairs into his company's 16 alleys. Now, he said, it's "all for nothing."

"I was going to retire next year anyway, but I would have had one good year left," said Aslan, 76.

Aslan was among a group of nonresidential tenants who have been notified by Cavalier Management — via letter under the door — that they have until Aug. 31 to vacate the building.

A Cavalier employee on Monday confirmed the company is poised to sell the building, but deferred to owner Richard Altman for further details. Altman could not be reached for comment.

City developers David Carver and Steve Oakes told The Eagle they aren't the buyers, but acknowledged they'd been thinking about the property and deemed it a good fit for more market-rate downtown housing.

"That's a prime location, I think," Oakes said.

In addition to the bowling alley, the building includes artist studios on the second and third floors.

Some tenants said they are more upset by the short notice, and the delivery method, than the eviction itself.

"People are on vacation and they don't even know they're being evicted," said Paul Rocheleau, a photographer who leases studio space on the third floor.

The Wright Building was built in 1898, according to a plaque out front. Carpets along the all-beige upstairs hallways are worn and stained.

"It's not beautiful," Rocheleau said, "but it works."

About a dozen artists lease upstairs studio space on the cheap — a necessity, one said, for artists "living on the edge."

Kent Mikalsen, an illustrator, said he pays $150 a month for his space in the building. He said artists being evicted will likely have to look outside Pittsfield for space, citing North Adams as what he considers a more artist-friendly example.

"These are assets to the cultural community. They're very important," he said, naming artists like Richard Brittel and those performing with Backfish Studio. "It's a shame that they have to go, and there's nowhere else to go in Pittsfield."

As for Candle Lanes, Aslan said he'd stay open until the bitter end. He said he'll host a tag sale at the shop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 18 and Aug. 19.

In the meantime, it will continue to be one of few places around that you can still get a hot dog and a beer for under $5, and where walk-ins can bowl for $4 a game.

Regulars of the downtown bowling alley there on Monday called its impending close an "end of an era."

"I've been in this alley since the '50s," Tom Danlyn said. Now, "it's something that's gone."

Aslan bought the bowling alley after getting offered a promotion at General Electric Corp. He said they tried to give him a foreman's position, warning him that with plants closing in Pittsfield, he'd likely have to move.

"I had three young kids then, too," he said. "I gave my two weeks' notice and I've been here ever since."

Mike Haring said he bowls there three times a week, and the eviction notice came as a "shock." He said the alley boasts an irreplaceable vibe.

"It's more fun," he said. "It's more family-oriented here than it is in other places."

The worst part, Aslan said, is "I'm going to miss my friends.""I'm grateful for all their business," he said. "I'm going to miss `em all."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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