Good Times

A mity Bowl has the cosmic carpeting, the molded plastic chairs, the marbled loaner balls. Call it retro. Because unlike its glitzy and pricey corporate competitors, independent Amity still has one foot back in 1958—its opening year—in the best possible way.

On a recent Friday evening, the 24-laner off Amity Road in Woodbridge was nearly packed to capacity despite the bitter cold. A friend and I trekked with our teenage daughters past the league bowlers, with their graceful style and frequent strikes, to lane 20, where good form gave way to good fun. A few lanes farther down, the bumpers were up, and we marveled at the physics of one little girl’s ball, which my friend estimated took about “five minutes” to make its way down the alley to the pins.

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Not that we were in a position to judge. No one broke 100.

Time flew, though for Amity it stands relatively still. While the days of keeping score with a tiny pencil and a blotter-sized sheet of paper are over even here (scoring is entirely automated on monitors), not much else has changed. Owner Barbara Watts says the main original equipment is still in use. For the most part, it seemed to be working just fine, though our balls sometimes lingered behind the fallen pins before shooting back to us.

The retro vibe is evident from the moment you approach Amity Bowl’s building, topped with a big BOWLING sign and painted with stylized red starbursts. Inside, the clatter of pins and the distinctive thunk of heavy balls on hardwood never changes. Some balls seem to float down the glossy lanes. Others (like several of ours) plop unceremoniously into the gutter. The shoes are new versions of the green and red leather loafers bowlers have worn for decades. Even the prices have stayed low: $3 per person per game and $2 for shoes on weekdays until 6, or $4.50 and $3.75 on evenings and weekends.

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Because Amity Bowl is still independent, Watts says she can also support league play every night of the week—the Tuesday night Pan Am League has played at Amity since 1962—which she says her corporate competitors are less willing to do. She’s also proud of Amity Bowl’s work with the special needs community. She emphasizes her “open door policy”: whenever the center is open, special needs bowlers pay only $3 per game including shoes.

Watts, with her three-year-old son, first visited Amity Bowl in 1987 to “bowl with the bumpers” and ended up running the junior program for 18 years. An accountant by trade, she later kept the books and sometimes subbed for the manager. In 2012, she bought the business. Still hands-on, we found her running the bar.

Which brings us to the food. For a small, independent bowling center, Amity Bowl has a big menu. Yes, there are vending machines, but the double-sided menu offers so much more: pancakes and breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches and wraps, a full selection of burgers (the Amity Bold Burger comes with grilled onions, cheddar and spicy mayo for $6.25), hot dogs, pizzas, salads and the requisite deep fried items you’d expect, from chicken nuggets to jalapeño poppers. We tried a broccoli and cheese white pizza ($8.75 for a 10-inch), which had a great garlicky kick, and a cheese quesadilla ($3.75), which had a “superb” amount of cheese according to my friend’s daughter. The fries ($5.95 for a large order) were hot and crispy. We sat in the bar at one of several four-top tables as disco balls and blacklights switched on above the alleys along with some Friday-night music, which rated well with the teens until Ed Sheeran was cut off for a country tune.

We called it a night around 10:30, but other bowlers were still going strong when we broke out into 2018 and the cold. “That was fun!” said my friend. “We should do it again!”

Hopefully without the gutter balls.

Amity Bowl
30 Selden St, Woodbridge (map)
(203) 389-2186
Mon 10am-10pm, Tues 10am-11pm, Wed 9am-11pm, Thurs-Sat 10am-midnight, Sun noon-9pm

Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Images 1 (featuring lane neighbors Amanda Stevenson and, just behind her, Todd Loban), 3 and 4 photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Image 2 photographed by Dan Mims.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is a writer and communications pro whose perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the Green and a coffee milkshake. She posts twice-weekly content for book clubs in her Substack newsletter, Better Book Clubs.

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