FREMONT (KPIX 5) — A popular bowling alley in Fremont is at risk of being knocked down to make room for an expensive housing project, but fans of the family-run business are calling for the city to spare it.
Mike Hillman is a co-owner of Cloverleaf Family Bowl. He runs the alley, fifty-five years after his grandparents first opened for business in 1963.
Hillman had plans to pass the business on to one of his children until the property owner told him that they wouldn’t renew Cloverleaf’s lease after September of 2023.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” said Hillman. “It hurts, it angers me. There’s every emotion you could imagine.”
It’s also a tough reality for other Cloverleaf workers, such as Bonita Ritona, who has worked at the bowling alley for 36 years.
“It’s sad. It’s sad the community is going to lose out,” said an emotional Ritona.
In the summer, the property owner revealed to Fremont city leaders that a developer wanted to demolish Cloverleaf to build housing units.
The community quickly rallied together; about 13,000 people signed an online petition in the first week to attempt to keep Cloverleaf open.
“It’s more than just money. It’s more than just housing. I think you need to look at what value this place brings to the community,” said Frank Santos, a long-time Cloverleaf bowler.
S.G. Ellison, the property owner, told KPIX 5 that he would not grant Cloverleaf another lease extension.
In a leap of fate to save his family’s business, Hillman asked city leaders to put the bowling alley on the historical register. But Ellison tried to fight that, too.
“This community needs us. We need them,” said Hillman.
Cloverleaf is the only bowling alley within miles for many in Fremont. For a lot of residents, saying goodbye will be difficult, but Hillman and his family will miss the alley the most.
Currently, it appears no petition, rally or public outcry can save the family business in its battle against a developer with millions of dollars.
Hillman said that he’s considered relocating, but he currently can’t afford to do so.