ELKHART — With a new auctioneer in place, Rainbo Lanes Bowling Center will once again be looking for the highest bidder at an auction scheduled for May.
The bowling alley, easily recognized by its bright pink building, was originally auctioned Oct. 18, 2011, but the final sale did not go through. Now, the property and business will be put on the selling block May 15 by Badger Corp. of Wisconsin.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to find a buyer,” said Ted Fleisner, owner and president of Badger Corp. “There’s going to be a buyer.”
He would not speculate on what price Rainbo Lanes would ultimately bring, noting the real estate market is vulnerable and the bidders will determine the top dollar.
“You can’t predict,” he said. “You just stick your foot in a puddle of water if you do.”
The late Ronald W. Grose built Rainbo Lanes at its current location on Middlebury Street in 1963. Starting as a bowling alley, the business grew to include 32 lanes, a pool room as well as a restaurant and bar. During the 1960s and 1970s, it was open 24 hours a day to accommodate the bowling leagues comprised of second-shift factory workers.
Brothers Rick and Randy Grose, two of Ronald Grose’s seven children, hope whoever buys the business reopens it and runs it as a bowling alley. However both acknowledged the buyer will have the final say over what happens to the business.
“Enough’s enough,” Randy said, explaining drawn-out situation is costing the estate of Ronald Grose money and wearing on family members. “The seven of us, we have our own lives now.”
At the October auction, the property, building and all the equipment inside were put together and sold as one lot. The top bid was $305,000 but the buyer declined to be identified, telling The Elkhart Truth the sale was not a done deal.
Because the bid was under the court-approved minimum, Elkhart Superior Court 2 had to rule on whether or not to accept it.
On Dec. 1, 2011, Tom Grose and Cynthia Ingling, two other children of Ronald Grose, filed a petition to vacate the court’s order to allow for the closing on Rainbo Lanes under the first auction’s sale terms and to enable Badger Corp. to auction the property.
The intervenors pointed to concerns that there “may have been inappropriate behavior” at the October auction which does “not serve the best interests of the estate.”
In particular, they were referring to a letter written by Marcia Bechtel of Elkhart that was filed with the court. She stated she was one of two parties bidding against each other toward the end of the auction. The other party turned in the winning bid but, she wrote, backed out and disappeared.
She was then approached by Brad Hooley of Bartel & Co., and asked if she and her party wanted to accept the property at the last amount bid.
“At the time, we were under the impression the other party was registered and legitimate bidder,” Bechtel wrote. “We are now under the impression the unknown party we were bidding against was only there to raise the final selling price.”
Subsequently, she offered to honor the last bid before the other party became involved. That amount, she said, was about $260,000. If the offer was unacceptable, she wrote, her party then requested to have its deposit refunded immediately.
Neither Tom Grose nor Bechtel could be reached for comment.
Matthew Yeakey, the attorney representing the estate, wrote a letter, also among court documents, to the Grose children in December that partially names the buyers and provides an explanation for why the sale faltered.
“In its most simplest terms,” he wrote, “the Korenstra/Bechtel Group has buyer’s remorse that they agreed to pay too much for Rainbo.”
He also stated the realtors had possibly located other investors to purchase the bowling alley from the Korenstra/Bechtel Group and the new group was in discussion with its bank to obtain financing.
FM Stone Commercial and Yeakey declined to comment.
On Dec. 15, the court directed Yeakey to enter into an agreement with Badger Corp. to proceed with another auction.
Rick Grose did not give details about how the sale unraveled, saying only the first auction did not work out for the family.
“It’s been another season,” he said, referring to the fall and winter when bowling leagues are most active. “We thought we would have it all over by October or November. It’s very disappointing for the whole family.”
Badger Corp. is planning to divide the auction into three rounds, Fleisner said. The first round will sell just the real estate. The second round will sell the real estate and bowling alley together. If the second part brings in a higher bid than the first, the auction will be over with the property and the business will be sold to the bidder as a complete package.
However, if the second round garners a lower bid than the first, the auction will continue to a third round where the equipment in the building will be sold piece by piece.
Rick Grose said the family does not want to see their father’s business sold off pin by pin and would rather have it become a functioning bowling alley again. Still, he reiterated, what happens is out of their hands.
“We just want it over,” he said. “We want the auctioneer to come in and do what auctioneers do.”