Rinaldi’s Riverdale Bowl: a Family-Owned Institution

By Dylan Josephson

28-year-old T.J. Mobley slid the cash register drawer shut, walked over to the microphone on the counter and made an announcement over the loudspeaker to the crowded room. With lots of energy and enthusiasm in his voice, he said the bowling league games would begin in 5 minutes. 

“And the madness starts,” Mobley then said to himself with a smile, as the bowlers celebrated and got ready to play.

It was Monday night at Rinaldi’s Riverdale Bowl in Riverdale Park, Maryland, which meant it was time for the adult mixed-bowling league.

Rinaldi’s, located about a mile from the University of Maryland campus, was built in 1960 by Nick Rinaldi. In 1998, after he passed away, his daughter Pat Rinaldi took over the family business. 

In an interview with Bowl Magazine in 2004, Rinaldi said there was no question in her mind that she would take over.

“I never even thought about it. I was just, ‘I’m going to do this.’ It was like, I had the vision, I had the passion, I had the guts to do it. I never really worried about it; I just knew I could do this,” she said. 

Although the bowling center has undergone many renovations over the years, it still has the charm of a good, old fashioned bowling alley.

When you walk in the front door, immediately to the left is a long wooden counter, and against the wall are shelves with hundreds of different-sized bowling shoes. On the wall is a sign that reads “One shoe must be turned in for rental shoes. NO EXCEPTIONS,” a necessity for any successful bowling alley. 

To the right is a sports bar, the more modern feature of the bowling center, called “11th Frame Sports Bar.” 

Front and center are 32 polished lanes, each with a monitor above them to show the scores. On a Monday night, you will also see a crowd of men and women laughing, cheering and of course, bowling. 

Fidelia Buck, 62, is one of the women on her team, called “Come Get Some.” She has been bowling for five years. 

Her friend (but competitor on Monday nights) Karen Brooks, 60, has also been bowling for five years. Some days she bowls as many as five games in different leagues.

“It’s a fun league, but definitely not a serious league,” Brooks said while laughing.

“It’s a real tough room,” Buck added sarcastically.

Mobley waved to a little girl and greeted her by name. When she turned away, embarrassed, he said that she always does that. The little girl’s family laughed as they walked to their lane. 

He only started working at Rinaldi’s about a month ago, but Mobley has already built relationships with regulars he sees each week.

“I love the environment, the people, the bowlers, the staff,” he said. “Everyone is nice and gets along.”

In addition to owning Rinaldi’s Riverdale Bowl, Rinaldi, a woman in her 70s, is a legend in the bowling world herself. 

She was a top-ranked female bowler in the U.S. between 1978 and 1983. She also was the first president of the Women’s National Duckpin Association and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1993.

Now, in 2019, running the bowling center her father started almost 60 years ago, Rinaldi said she is happy.

“I have been proud to carry on the tradition since 1998.”

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rinaldi’s Riverdale Bowl’s Facebook page.

Dylan Josephson is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at djosephs@terpmail.umd.edu.

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