By Brandon Martin
The Roll ‘A’ Bout Skating Center in Collinsville closed its doors for the final time Dec. 30, after 36 years of business in the area.
Mike Foley, the original owner of the establishment, first opened the rink in October of 1983. He had previously opened franchises in both Burlington and Eden, N.C.
With the Collinsville branch closing five years after the Asheboro branch, only two of his four rinks will remain.
Foley left the rinks to his wife, Christia, after his death in 2016.
“He was the one that ran the rinks. These were his businesses,” said Lisa Pruitt, manager of the Collinsville and Eden Roll ‘A’ Bouts. “She was the bookkeeper. She’s just ready to step away from it for a little bit.”
According to Pruitt, the rinks are up for sale or lease. She says that the rink does well enough but “this is the furthest away from the owner right now and it does the least amount of business of the three, so it’s the first one she wanted to step away from.”
“I think she would prefer to sell it, but whatever best offer comes to the table first, she will likely consider,” Pruitt explained.
If given the choice, the current manager certainly has a preference for what she would like to see happen to Roll ‘A’ Bout.
“I’d like to see someone come in and continue doing skating here,” she said. “It’s what I’ve done all my life.”
Pruitt said potential buyers are interested in the space for a variety of reasons.
“Some are geared towards kids. Some are not. Some are interested in continuing it as a skating rink so the doors might not be closed for long,” Pruitt said, and noted that she would be “up for anything for the kids, just so they have something to do.”
Looking back at their 36 years of business, Pruitt expressed how much of an impact the rink had on the community.
“So many people grew up here over the years,” she said. “We’ve seen teenagers skate here back in the early 80s and they brought their kids and then those kids brought their kids.”
She said that the previous manager, her father Don, “had a huge impact on the community as well. A lot of people looked at him as a father figure. This has been a family business.”
“We’ve done hockey here. We’ve done speed skating here. We do the school skates as well. I think we had a huge impact on the community,” she said.
The location and general interest in skating may be hindrances to the skating business in Henry County, Pruitt said.
“It has its ups and downs everywhere. The amount of people that go out and skate is nowhere close to where it used to be,” she said. “Henry County has decreased in population ever since we moved here from Jamestown. When I moved here, there were six high schools. Now we are down to three. A lot of people left the community.”
Pruitt doesn’t think that “a lot of kids today understand the enjoyment of skating like we did in the early 80s and 90s.” She says that when they do come to the rink, “it’s not the same atmosphere as it was growing up.
“Back in the day, they would come and they came to skate. There was shuffle skating and they would get out there with their little groups to make up dances and stuff like that. Now, they are much more interested in chasing each other around or sitting around listening to their ear buds,” she said.
Pruitt also challenged the notion that the sport has an age limit.
“We don’t have a huge adult following either, but roller skating is a lifetime sport,” she said. “This is a sport that can be enjoyed, not just by kids, but of all ages. A lot of people in this area look at this as something just for kids to do. I run into teenagers all the time that are 13, 14 or 15 years old that don’t skate anymore. They think it’s kiddy stuff and it’s not.”
Pruitt said there are huge populations of adults that skate in larger, more metropolitan areas.
“A lot of local rinks do adult night skates just for us grown-ups. We’ve had people skating that are up in their 70s or 80s,” Pruitt said. “I’m a coach for speed skating, and some of the biggest categories is what they call esquire. They are 65 plus and they are out there speed skating. Even in artistic skating, there are a lot of older people that participate.”
Sadly, that “just doesn’t seem to be something that this community is really into,” she said.