EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo gave the green light for bowling alleys to reopen when the state entered Phase 3 at the end of June, which meant everything to Chuck and Maria Geoppo.
“Every night, there’s someone that we know, and I don’t think there’s a day that we’ve gone that at least half a dozen people don’t know us,” Chuck said.
The couple said they’ve been knocking down pins together for more than a decade.
“I took her one time and I said, ‘Can you sub? Can you fill in for someone?” Chuck recalled. “She said, ‘I don’t know if I want to … I’ll do it once.’ Next thing you know, she was hooked.”
Maria said Chuck is a Vietnam veteran who was injured, and bowling is his therapy. The couple now plays in a league together.
“We bowl in the league maybe two or three times a week, and we practice two times,” she said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down, the Geoppos said they felt empty being stuck at home.
“We couldn’t go to the gym, we couldn’t go bowling,” Chuck said. “All of our things, they were just cut off.”
The couple bowls with a lot of people, according to Maria.
“It really has been hard not to be able to see our friends at the gym, at the bowling alley,” she said.
The Geoppos said they were eager, but apprehensive about heading back to the alley at East Providence Lanes.
“If people were going to be sick … and how we were going to handle with the mask and everything,” Chuck explained.
East Providence Lanes General Manager Michael Sedoma told Eyewitness News the bowling alley reopened July 7, which is when Chuck and Maria said they made their return.
“It’s great that we have such a connection with our customers,” Sedoma said. “Because of people like Chuck and Maria who come every or a couple times a week, and our league bowlers and just open play to come in and support us, it’s a big deal to a lot of people.”
Sedoma said bowling alleys have always used disinfectant to wipe down equipment and spray shoes. Now, East Providence Lanes is providing disinfectants to its customers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We wipe down the tables, the chairs, the tablets – everything that could be used,” he said. “We do it beforehand but [customers] are more than welcome to do it before they get there too.”
People have to wear masks to enter the building, Sedoma said, but they can take them off once they reach the purple tables in the bowling center. He also said they’re only using every other lane to maintain social distancing.
“One day we use odd, the next day we use even,” Sedoma said. “We’re able to use 30 lanes a day for open play.”
The bar is currently closed, according to Sedoma, but a waitress will come by to take food and drink orders.
The Geoppos said they use the gym not only to stay healthy, but also to build strength to help them bowl better.
“When Chuck’s average starts to go down, I ask him, ‘have you been too busy for the gym?” Maria said. “And then he gets back to the gym for two weeks and his average goes right back up to 200.”
The couple said they plan to go back to the gym next week.