Chris Smith: Ukiah is on pins and needles over the possible loss of its bowling alley

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With all that’s going on in the world, it seems hardly worth mentioning that the modest, 16-lane bowling alley at the north end of Ukiah might have to shut down before the end of the year.

Unless you live within a hour or so of the Yokayo Bowling Center and you have a sense of the purpose the place serves.

More than 4,000 people have signed petitions that really are a communal plea for mercy for the 60-year-old business that gives kids, seniors and families in a great swath of Mendocino and Lake counties something fun and affordable to do — especially when the weather turns wintry.

Friends of Yokayo Bowl are hurting along with owner Mike Schutz as he confronts the possible loss of his business.

“I don’t want to see this go,” Schutz said.

He leases the building on North State Street, and the current lease expires at the end of the year. Schutz said he’s had good relations with the owners, all heirs of the late Henry Erickson, during the 10 years he’s run the bowling alley.

Erickson and his late brother, Arnold, once owned a good deal of property, including the Vichy Springs Resort and, right next to the Yokayo Bowl, the landmark Fjords Smorg-ette. There’s now an In-N-Out where the Fjords was.

Earlier this year, Schutz was anticipating no problems with renewing the lease on the Yokayo Bowl building with the Erickson heirs and their company, Erickson Brothers Properties.

Trouble arose in July. Schutz was told that someone was offering to pay triple what he was paying to lease the building.

Schutz said one of the partners let him know that, in fact, he and the others were more interested in selling the property. So Schutz wrote up a purchase offer and presented it to a Ukiah real estate agent for the Erickson heirs, John Lazaro.

Schutz said the owners rejected his offer, so he sweetened it. He was waiting for a response when, he said, Lazaro told him the owners were thinking it might be better to continue to lease it.

But to whom? Schutz has no idea who’s vying to take over the current home of Yokayo Bowl. I phoned real estate agent Lazaro but haven’t heard back from him.

Schutz would like to throw himself into planning one of his biggest events of the year, a fundraising tournament for Special Olympics on Dec. 2. But if the building is leased or sold to someone else, he’d have to lock the doors by about then in order to vacate by Dec. 31.

“We’re kind of in limbo,” he said. And here it’s happening just as weather is drawing in bowlers from the cold.


BRUNCH AT W.O.W. is a memorable experience that soon, you probably know, will be just a memory.

Santa Rosa’s extraordinary and life-boosting Worth Our Weight café is shutting down. Founder and director Evelyn Cheatham says the food-service apprentice program is no longer attracting enough diners and trainees to continue.

The café on Hahman Drive is closed Sunday because John Franchetti is hosting an end-of-the-run benefit for it Sunday evening at Franchetti’s Wood Fire Kitchen.

But Worth Our Weight will be open for brunch from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 21 and 28, and Nov. 4. It’s probably a good idea to make a reservation by phoning 707-544-1200, especially if you’ll be bringing along a few friends.

You can reach columnist Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and

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