Steve Miller, co-owner of Glacier Lanes bowling center, says his family is permanently closing the Everett business as the state’s coronavirus shutdown continues with no end in sight. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Steve Miller, co-owner of Glacier Lanes bowling center, says his family is permanently closing the Everett business as the state’s coronavirus shutdown continues with no end in sight. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Glacier Lanes won’t be spared: Owners decide to close forever

Bowlers statewide are rallying to open venues shut by COVID rules, but this Everett business isn’t waiting.

They grew up accustomed to hard work and the weight of a bowling ball. For decades, they shouldered the responsibilities of running a business started by their father, a pro bowler. Now the owners of Glacier Lanes are saying goodbye “with heavy hearts.”

Steve and Larry Miller, brothers and co-owners of the south Everett bowling center at 9630 Evergreen Way, announced last week they’re discontinuing the business. Citing lack of income caused by the coronavirus-related closure, ongoing expenses and uncertainty over when the state mandate might be lifted, the Miller family posted the news on social media Monday and on the Glacier Lanes website.

Silence is rare at a bowling alley, but the place was all too quiet Friday — no balls rolling down smooth lanes, knocking down pins with that unmistakable crack.

“It costs a lot to operate a bowling center,” said Steve Miller, 65, who also bowled professionally. He’s officially been in the business since the mid-1970s when, at age 19, he bought Twin City Lanes in Stanwood. His sister, Miram Shadle, runs that business today.

Through the years, their father, Ernie Miller, bought and operated many bowling alleys around the region. Steve Miller has childhood memories of emptying ashtrays, sweeping floors and fetching take-out pizza when his dad ran Broadway Bowling and Billiards on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

“He was a pro bowler, he made it to TV,” Steve Miller said of his father, who died of a brain aneurysm while at work at Glacier Lanes in 1999. “Every Saturday he was on television when I was a child. Dad and I bowled nationals for years. My son Jeremy and I bowled nationals,” he recalled.

A photo of Ernie Miller, a pro bowler who died in 1999, graces the trophy case at Glacier Lanes bowling center. His sons, Steve and Larry Miller, now own the Everett business that announced its closure last week. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A photo of Ernie Miller, a pro bowler who died in 1999, graces the trophy case at Glacier Lanes bowling center. His sons, Steve and Larry Miller, now own the Everett business that announced its closure last week. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“It’s with heavy hearts that we have to call it quits after 63 years serving the public,” the Miller family said in the Facebook post. “The COVID-19 pandemic claimed perhaps one of the icons of entertainment in Snohomish County,” they wrote, also outlining how they’d remodeled to comply with safety and sanitation guidelines while holding out hope for a reopening date that hasn’t come.

On July 28, Gov. Jay Inslee announced adjustments to the state’s “Safe Start” plan. Effective July 30, the revised plan prohibited the opening of indoor recreation centers, including bowling alleys — which now must await Phase 4. Previously, bowling was to start once counties reached Phase 3. Snohomish County is now in Phase 2.

In June, expecting a Phase 3 opening, the Washington State Bowling Proprietors’ Association released a statement listing safety protocols its members — some 85 bowling centers statewide — committed to and submitted to the governor.

“We reopened our restaurant July 1. We thought we were right on top of Phase 3,” Steve Miller said. “We’re a bowling center with a restaurant and lounge, not a restaurant and lounge with bowling. Without bowling, the other parts just don’t go.”

This weekend, “Bring Back Bowling” rallies were planned at nearly 20 sites around the state. One rally was to be held Saturday afternoon at Everett’s Evergreen Lanes — also once owned by Ernie Miller. Bowling enthusiasts seeking an immediate reopening scheduled their rallies for Aug. 8. In better times, National Go Bowling Day was observed on that date.

Bowling alley owners “have taken extraordinary measures to prepare their centers for bowlers to return to the lanes,” said Gregory Olsen, executive director of the proprietors’ group, in a statement announcing the rallies.

Vickie Pederson, who was featured in a 2019 Herald article about a family of top bowlers at Glacier Lanes, said Thursday she planned to attend Saturday’s rally. Saddened by news of the Glacier Lanes closure, she said “it’s a wonderful business.”

“Glacier was a family-run place. We are all very, very saddened,” said Pederson, whose brother-in-law, Gordy Cea, operated Everett’s Tyee Lanes from 1984 to 2005. A fixture on north Broadway since 1957, the Tyee property became part of Everett Community College.

It was 1989 when the Miller family took over Glacier Lanes, which Steve Miller said has been in operation for more than 60 years. Miller, who said Glacier’s 10 employees were told of the closure last week, wants the public to know “we didn’t go bankrupt, we’re not broke.”

“My brother and I are in our 60s,” he said, adding that Larry Miller has had a heart condition. “We could do it, but we don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

There’s a treasure trove of history in Glacier’s trophy case, including a photo of a young and bespectacled Ernie Miller set to release his ball. In 2000, posthumously, he was admitted into the Snohomish County USBC (United States Bowling Congress) Hall of Fame. As a young man, in 1943, he set a record in pin-setting, by hand, for 200 games in one day.

Steve Miller has run the Glacier Lanes pro shop, and intends to keep on custom drilling bowling balls.

Glacier Lanes bowling alley, its restaurant and lounge are victims of the COVID-19 shutdown. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Glacier Lanes bowling alley, its restaurant and lounge are victims of the COVID-19 shutdown. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Since learning Glacier Lanes was closing permanently, more than 1,000 well-wishers have expressed thanks and sadness on social media.

“I often wonder if Tyee would’ve made it through this,” wrote Jeana Cea, a member of the family that operated the north Everett bowling alley that closed in 2005. Wishing the Millers “the best in your future endeavors,” she added on Facebook: “It’s amazing how your employees and customers become your family and what a hard decision on you and your family this must have been.”

Steve Miller doesn’t know if the Glacier Lanes site will continue as a bowling venue. He said it will be sold.

“We want bowling to succeed,” he said. And thinking of what might have been, Miller added, “we were having one of our best years ever.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Bothell
2 injured in Bothell Everett Highway crash

The highway was briefly reduced to one northbound lane while police investigated the three-car crash Saturday afternoon.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Whidbey Renaissance Faire volunteers pose in their costumes. (Photo by Bree Eaton)
Faire thee well: Renaissance is coming to Whidbey Island

The volunteer-run fair May 25 and 26 will feature dancers, a juggler, ‘Fakespeare,’ various live music shows and lots of food.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.