Millard Tong loves to bowl.
He started in 1966, as a hobby while he was growing up in San Francisco. As an adult, he had two lanes installed in his home in Pacifica. And in 2002, Tong bought , the iconic South San Francisco bowling alley that has been in operation since 1951.
Tong, whose professional background is in development and construction, can be found bowling the lanes at Brentwood Bowl at least a couple times a week. He says it's more fun than bowling alone at home.
"[Brentwood Bowl] is so small, people talk from lane to lane," he said.
Brentwood Bowl is a cozy local hangout with a lively bar and lanes named after the horses from Tong's Pacifica ranch. It's inviting to families as well as to skilled bowlers. It doesn't feel like a place that's seen a lot of changes, but within the next year, it's going to undergo its biggest change since it opened. It's moving.
As soon as remodeling can be completed, Brentwood Bowl will occupy the old Century Plaza theater at the corner of Noor and Huntington Avenues. The 47,000 square-foot space, which Tong said has been vacant for seven years, will contain an expanded Brentwood Bowl, with a whopping 40 lanes (compared to the current 16). In addition to a snack bar and restaurant, the Tong plans to create a bakery and coffee shop with wifi and seating for people to hang out.
Tong announced the move a few days ago with letters on the movie theater marquee: "New Brentwood Bowl Coming Soon."
But Brentwood Bowl's move wasn't primarily motivated by a desire to expand. Instead, Tong saw an investment opportunity.
The city of South San Francisco recently changed the zoning along El Camino Real to increase building height allowances from 50 feet to 120 feet for mixed-use buildings. Tong realized he could develop the existing Brentwood Bowl property, which he owns, into a condo building with retail on the ground floor. His current plans call for a nine- to 10-story building with 42 condos and a 15,000 square-foot retail space. He plans to call it Millwood Towers.
Tong is confident that an expanded Brentwood Bowl will succeed. With fewer bowling alleys in the Bay Area, and the recent news that Daly City's Serra Bowl will close, he thinks there's a market for more bowling lanes.
Even though Brentwood Bowl is moving, it's atmosphere won't change, Tong said. He's bringing his staff with him, and he expects customers will follow.
"We want to carry that type of homey atmosphere and neighborhood hangout," Tong said.