You can't get a strike, but you can get a used vehicle Car dealer moving to former bowling alley site in Strasburg BY CINDY HUMMEL, Correspondent
Signatures sealed the fate of the Garden Spot Bowl on March 25.
Owners Donald and Cheryl Kercher sold the property at 226 N. Decatur St. to Darrin Sauder, of Sauder Motors, and his partners.
The land will become the new home of Sauder Motors Inc., a used-vehicle dealership now at 106 W. Main St., and its RV-repair business.
Sauder has no plans to rebuild the bowling alley, which burned down in a three-alarm fire in May 2011.
Donald Kercher and Sauder both declined to disclose the purchase price. According to courthouse records, it was $180,000.
After the fire, the Kerchers had hoped to rebuild the bowling alley. But legal fees and expenses from fighting their insurance company added up, Kercher said. Those expenses, and the amount of the remaining mortgage, made rebuilding impractical, he said.
Fortunately, Kercher said, the bowling alley was not the couple's only source of income. Kercher services MRI and CAT scan machines, while his wife owns Cherlynn House of Beauty on South Decatur Street.
Still, the couple had mixed emotions about selling the property, which they owned since 1999. Kercher said his wife, who managed the bowling alley, cried during settlement.
Kercher said he will miss the friends he and Cheryl made through the business.
While Darrin Sauder briefly entertained the idea of putting two bowling lanes in his new office for children to use while their parents shopped for vehicles, he found it would cost too much and require too much space.
Instead, Sauder plans to display salvaged bowling pins from the site in his future dealership.
While bowling fans will no longer have real lanes in Strasburg, Darrin's father, Donald Sauder, said an arcade-style bowling game has not been ruled out.
About a year after the fire, Darrin Sauder said, he asked about buying the land. The Kerchers were still working with their insurance company at that time.
But about two months ago, after the couple had settled with their insurance company (they would not disclose the details of the settlement), the Kerchers called Sauder to see if he was still interested.
The sale went quickly, so the Sauder family is still deciding on specific plans.
"It is still all in the dream stage," Donald Sauder said. He said he will likely sell the company's current site at 106 W. Main St. in the future.
The Sauders' first priority will be removing the remaining debris at the site of the former bowling alley.
As current president of Sauder Motors, Darrin Sauder has taken over most of the responsibility of the business from his father, who is now vice president. Darrin Sauder's 10-year-old son, Ethan, has already gotten involved, checking the business website to make sure it shows current inventory.
The Sauder family has another connection to its new land. Sauder's great grandmother -- a member of the Mellinger family -- lived in a house that was torn down to make way for the bowling alley more than 50 years ago.
Kercher recalled a previous owner's story about the remains of the brick house being used as fill under Garden Spot Bowl.
With the exception of its front steps, the bowling alley had no bricks. So any bricks found while clearing the remaining debris, Kercher said, could be the remains of the old Mellinger homestead.
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