Gutter ball rolled at auction

Different auctioneer solicits bids for Rainbo Lanes.

Posted on May 16, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — The future of Rainbo Lanes bowling alley remains in doubt despite a second trip to the auction block Tuesday.

Bidders for the business were few and the final offers were well below not only what the family wanted but also the court-ordered minimum bid requirement. The auctioneer, Wisconsin-based Badger Corp., opened the floor at 11:35 a.m. and when the bidding had stopped about a half hour later, the high bid for the real estate was $95,000 while the top bid for the equipment was $10,000.

Now the seven children of the bowling alley's founder, the late Ronald Grose, will have to meet and decide what to do next. The court will not accept or reject the bids and no property will change hands without the family's approval.

Roger Grose, one of the children, noted the business holds a lot of memories for him and his siblings, so now everybody will have to step back and consider all the options.

“We got some things to think about,” he said. “I know what dad would say, he'd say keep it.”

His sister, Melissa Grose, agreed, saying their father would tell them, “You're silly to give it away.”

The auction was done in three parts. First the property and the business were sold as one complete unit, then the real estate and all the equipment were divided into two lots and sold separately.

Ted Fleisner, CEO of Badger Corp., opened the auction looking for a $300,000 bid for the land and business as a whole. None came so he dropped to $200,000 and a few minutes later he went down to $100,000 before a bidder on the phone offered $50,000. At the end, the top bid for everything was $100,000.

The real estate, which includes about 3-plus acres of land and the 33,700-square-foot building, generated the most interest with competing offers coming from a pair of men representing a buyer and a proxy bidder on the phone. Bidding started at $50,000. Over several rounds, the proxy eventually bumped the offer to $90,000, and though Fleisner tried to coax the pair to jump to $100,000, they went only half the distance to $95,000.

The equipment, which includes the furniture, fixtures and other contents of the building, began with a $25,000 bid, but that was soon withdrawn. Fleisner, trying to solicit another offer of $25,000, received a bid of $10,000 from a proxy bidder and could not convince anyone else to propose $15,000 or even $12,500.

After the auction, Fleisner said he could not be disappointed in the results because the bidders determined the market value. Also, he pointed out the bowling alley was being sold in a sluggish commercial real estate market and with equipment that is 45 years old.

“Things can be different tomorrow. Things could have been different yesterday,” he said of the auction's final bids. “So you're never disappointed.”

However, the Grose children were stunned. Melissa became emotional as she talked about how hard her parents and her twin older brothers, Rick and Randy Grose, worked to make Rainbo Lanes successful.

“Fifty, 60 years of work, to think it all dwindles down to this is just heart-wrenching,” she said. “It just creates an impasse for us.”

Rainbo Lanes had been auctioned in October and garnered a top bid of $305,000. But the sale unraveled over disputes about the bidding process, leading Elkhart Superior Court 2 to order the Grose estate to enlist Badger Corp. and do another auction.

Before things got started Tuesday, Rick and Randy Grose were hopeful the bowling alley would be sold but the amount of people who came might have foreshadowed what would transpire. The crowd was remarkably sparse, struggling to reach 50, and considerably smaller than the group that attended the October auction.

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