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No bids for Auburn’s Foothills Bowl; alley will stay open for now

Bowling lanes, Foothills Motel, empty restaurant, vacant land revert to lender
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Auburn area’s lone bowling alley is now in the hands of a lender after Foothills Bowl owner Kimberley-Oregon Realty was unable to keep up payments on a $4.6 million debt. But indications are it will stay open for now. While league bowling continued at the Bowman Road lanes today, an auction at a North Auburn parking lot failed to find a buyer for the 24-lane facility and four adjoining properties. Lender Cupertino Capital had set the minimum bid at $1 million for the complex, which also includes the 56-year-old Foothills Motel, a vacant restaurant building that still carries the “Sam’s Hofbrau” sign of its last tenant 15 years ago, and two empty lots. About a dozen people milled around the B Avenue parking lot auction site, but auctioneer Kurt Butler of LPS Agency Sales had no takers on what would have been a cash-only transaction. Instead, the property reverted to Cupertino Capital, which public records show is owed the $4.6 million. “Another sad story,” Butler said later in the day. “A lot of dreams are getting quashed these days. And I understand this means a lot to people in the area.” The Foothills Bowl wasn’t the only property on the auction block that didn’t sell. Butler put about 20 others – mostly vacant lots or residences – up for bid and none were sold. Bowling leagues are continuing as they have since the lanes opened at the Foresthill exit location in 1959. Beulah Lopez, a bowler and nearby resident who volunteers as a secretary or treasurer with many of the leagues, said about 700 people are involved in organized games and many hundreds more take part weekly during open bowling. Lopez has been bowling at Foothills since 1974 and wondered aloud Wednesday where she and others would go if it closes. Rocklin has an alley but likely couldn’t absorb any leagues from Auburn. Grass Valley has a facility but many bowlers from that area prefer Foothills, she said. “Everybody’s like family,” Lopez said. “If it shuts down, I don’t know what we’re going to do.” The former owner of the Foothills property also owns the Foothills Bowl and Foothills Motel businesses, which are separate from the land and buildings now in Cupertino Capital hands. Britton Scheibe, of Rancho Santa Fe-based Kimberly-Oregon, said the family business is hoping that Cupertino will allow them to continue to operate the motel and lanes. “The businesses are separate from the real estate,” Scheibe said. “They could give us a notice to leave or they could negotiate a lease. We’re going to do everything we can to keep the business and keep it running.” While declining to go into details about the reasons for the foreclosure, Scheibe did say that if the business hadn’t taken out the loan when it did, the bowling center wouldn’t exist as it does today. “We did what we did to keep it running,” he said. “It’s been a family owned business for the last 30-plus years and a source of pride. We put a lot of money and pride into it.” The restaurant building has been closed for about 15 years but not because of Kimberly-Oregon, Scheibe said. Denny’s Restaurants negotiated a long-term lease on the building and established a Sam’s Hofbrau there. When it closed in the mid-1990s, however, the Denny’s corporation decided to keep lease payments up rather than let someone move in and compete with the Denny’s it had opened nearby, Scheibe said. “We were stuck as the landlord,” he said. “Through no fault of ours, it’s been vacant for so long.” That lease ended in 2007 and there has been recent interest in the building, Scheibe said.