The letter to the bowlers from Andy and Wes Johnston opened this way:
Dear Valued Customer:
“Westgate and Northland Lanes and the Johnston family have been serving the Lima community for over 50 years and three generations. Unfortunately under the current and foreseeable future of the bowling business, we find it imperative to consolidate our business to one location. As a result we will be closing Northland Lanes on Dec. 31 and are inviting all Northland customers to help us consolidate our bowling business at Westgate. We feel with one healthy location, we will be in better standing to upgrade our facility and provide excellent service both of which will provide a better bowling experience for you our customer.
We regret this inconvenience to you but feel it is the best and only option to us as we move forward to a new year. “
I have had the chance in the aftermath of the decision to sit down and speak with Andy and Wes and the letter to the bowlers does not begin to match the emotions that they feel for this inevitable business decision.
It was very clear that they feel that they have let down their bowlers, employees, the community as well as their father and grandfather. Ironically, it was the loyalty that they felt to each that led to opening Northland this season. They hoped that by this point they would be able to project the monies necessary for the Northland side of the equation to remain open.
Some will want to criticize the decision as well as the timing of the decision. While the critics have the right, I suggest that they just take a second and think of how Andy and Wes feel at this point. The presence of Westgate and Northland has been an integral part of their entire lives. This is a family owned business that has been existence for over 50 years. It is very evident that they have experienced a significant loss, a loss that none of us can even begin to understand.
The closing of Northland Lanes for them was an extremely difficult decision because of the people that it impacted.
The letter that has been made available to all league bowlers addresses the financial perks that they are going to be providing the bowlers who make the transition to Westgate. There will be significant prize fund donations related to the teams that make the transition. They have been more than fair. In truth I wonder how they are going to make it happen. They will tell you that it is their way to express the appreciation they have for the bowlers who have demonstrated loyalty to them.
The more the three of us sat and chatted, the more we reminisced and the more we reminisced the more the Johnston boys lamented that they would have to live by the decision that they had made. This is a very tough time for them. While some have lost a place to bowl or to meet, they have lost a link to their past.
They realize that Northland has been a big piece of the lives of many. They know that friendships and families have started there. They truthfully want this last fortnight to be an opportunity for all to share favorite memories of the past. Maybe they should be written down and placed in a time capsule. I know that they have at least one thought of what may happen to the lanes.
Thank you Andy and Wes for giving Northland one last chance as well as thanks for what you continue to strive to do for different agencies and programs in our community. You are appreciated and I trust when a breath is taken the bowlers of Northland will understand your decision as well.