Small Business Administration recognizes veteran's effort to open Belfast bowling alley
Belfast — The pounding of hammers and buzz of saws can be heard through the open doorways of the former Jed's Restaurant as the previously vacant building is being transformed over the next few months into a bowling and family entertainment facility.
The building was purchased by Don and Kelly Benson who plan to convert the space into a an entertainment facility featuring eight lanes of candlepin bowling, pool tables and an arcade, in addition to serving food and drinks.
Don and his wife, who own and operate the Waldoboro-based ALLPLaY Family Entertainment Center, approached the City of Belfast in late July about opening another location in the former Jed's Restaurant on Route 1.
During a presentation Wednesday, April 2, Don was recognized by representatives of the U.S. Small Business Administration, which helped finance the Belfast location and the Waldoboro facility.
Seth Goodall, SBA regional administrator, praised Benson for his success as a business owner, as well as for his 25 years of service in the Air Force where he achieved the rank of E-9, before unveiling photographs of the construction process at Benson's Waldoboro facility.
Benson thanked Goodall and the SBA for helping him finance the Belfast and Waldoboro locations and explained that he and his wife decided to open a family entertainment center because he spent his career in the Air Force managing recreational programs.
When he retired from the Air Force, he went to work for MBNA at their Point Lookout facility in Northport where he continued to manage events. After the company was bought out, Benson lost his job. He then went to work for another company, but was laid off again.
He and his wife then decided to open ALLPLaY, which he said was met with great success. Because of the popularity of the Waldoboro location, Benson told officials he was looking at expanding his operations and Belfast was a good fit.
“I see Belfast growing very fast,” Benson said.
It was not just the fact the city has attracted more development over the years that caught Benson's attention. He also noted that with the exception of the Waldo County YMCA and the Colonial Theatre, there were not many places that catered to family entertainment.
Benson gave a tour of the building and highlighted where the kitchen would be located, an event room that will be available for birthday parties and noted that the facility will have four 9-foot, regulation-sized pool tables.
At the end of the tour, Benson estimated the building could accommodate approximately 125 to 150 people.
When asked why he decided to offer candlepin bowling as opposed to tenpin, Benson explained the size of the bowling balls for tenpin are often difficult for smaller children to use. He said he wanted his business to cater to customers who are two years old to 102 years old.
Benson said he hopes the Belfast location will be open for business by the end of May or the beginning of June.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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