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Braymiller's Lanes owner plans to 'build it back better' after snow-related roof collapse, demolition

"It just hit its limit and that was it," said owner Howie Braymiller.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The owner of a historic bowling alley in Hamburg plans to rebuild after suffering a catastrophic roof collapse during Western New York's most recent lake effect storm.

Braymiller's Lanes on Buffalo Street will be demolished but its third-generation owner, Howie Braymiller told 2 On Your Side that he will "build it back better."

Demolition crews dropped off a backhoe and fencing Monday at the 80-plus-year-old business, which sits open to the elements on both sides and has a gaping hole in the roof.

"It just hit its limit and that was it," said Braymiller, who noted that the building has endured two previous roof collapses; once while his grandfather was running the business, the other happened around 25 years ago.

Braymiller explained that collapsed roofs aren't uncommon for bowling alleys given their openness and wide truss-supported structure. 

"The roof trusses, the snow was so heavy that it just pushed the trusses down and then the ceiling got pushed down onto the lanes and then it pushed the walls out," he said.

In the 90s Braymiller said he added a steel beam across the front portion of the building which houses the bar, dining, and memorabilia area. It was the only section of the bowling alley spared from damage and allowed Braymiller to save several boxes full of photos and family memories.

The ceiling collapsed right above the bowling lanes and filled the gutters with dust, debris, and snow. The bowling machines and ball returns were unharmed by the collapse and while Braymiller has been eager to save as much as he can, it's not clear whether pulling them out is feasible.

The lane decking although mostly unharmed isn't able to be safely reached.

Fortunately, Braymiller said his insurance will cover the damage.

"It's going to be weird not seeing it here after all these years," Braymiller said.

Claire Manzella, who's been a bartender at Braymiller's for three years but grew up in Lakeview recalled fond memories of the bowling alley. She came by to see the damage and spoke with 2 On Your Side.

"This place is somewhere that anyone could come from all walks of life and you didn't have to be of a certain status to feel welcome... and it's really special," said Manzella. 

With demolition scheduled for Tuesday, although that date could change, Braymiller said he won't be returning to see the place come down.

"It'd be too hard," he said.

Instead, Braymiller will be meeting with an architect during demolition and looking ahead, with plans to rebuild in the same footprint and a design that could involve a balcony that overlooks the lanes.

Overwhelmed by the support he has received Braymiller is optimistic and pending any construction delays, hopes to have the new bowling alley open by September 2023.


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