If you’ve walked past 902 N. Market St. recently and saw a red-haired character named Wilma, downtown Wilmington might have felt a little like Bedrock.
A temporary sign for Wilma’s, a new recreation hall with duckpin bowling and a small arcade, now hangs at the entrance of the former Ernest & Scott Taproom announcing it will be coming soon.
The name is a play on the city’s name and not “The Flintstones” – sorry, Bronto burgers are not on the menu – and will inject a new kind of entertainment destination directly into the heart of the city’s downtown.
When first announced in January 2020, the recreation hall had an opening date of the fall of 2020. The pandemic struck and the project was stalled.
The 5,700-square-foot space is now slated to open this fall.
“We decided to hold back the project during the pandemic while more was learned about the virus and what the social landscape would look like,” said Sarah Lamb, vice president of design and marketing for The Buccini/Pollin Group.
Lamb recently detailed some of Wilma’s offerings for Delaware Online/The News Journal/, revealing that it will be outfitted with four duckpin bowling lanes along with other games.
Like the popular Dave & Buster’s chain, there will also be a separate full-service dining room and bar, featuring New Orleans-inspired dishes, allowing fun-seekers to let the good times roll in more ways than one.
Wilma’s will be run by developers The Buccini/Pollin Group, which also runs The Queen, DECO food hall, Maker’s Alley beer garden and Hotel du Pont’s Le Cavalier, formerly the Green Room.
Buccini/Pollin Group has wanted to open a recreational space in downtown for more than five years.
Lamb said there will be a private rental space at Wilma’s, which will “be transformed completely and unrecognizable to prior patrons of the former establishments.”
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After an eight-year run, Ernest & Scott closed in January 2020 when the Wilma’s project was first announced.
Wilma’s will be housed street level in the former Delaware Trust Building, which is owned by The Buccini/Pollin Group.
Built in 1921, it was home to restaurants for a decade.
The Philadelphia-based Public House chain took over the space with 30-foot ceilings in 2009, replacing the Great Room of The Residences at Rodney Square, which occupies the same building.
After two years, Ernest & Scott Taproom replaced Public House in January 2012.
While both restaurants tried their best with the cavernous space, neither found success.
“I was never a fan of the space – I knew the obstacles of a huge place with great, big open areas,” Ernest & Scott owner Joe Van Horn said in January 2020. “It’s great when you have 700 people, but they suck on a Tuesday afternoon.”
While there’s too much room for a traditional restaurant in the old bank, it’s also not quite big enough for a proper bowling alley.
That’s why Buccini/Pollin turned to duckpin bowling, which takes up a bit less space and is also growing in popularity, especially in Northeast urban centers. Duckpin bowling uses a ball about the size of a grapefruit with no finger holes to knock down shorter, smaller and lighter pins.
When it opens, Wilma’s will be the only duckpin bowling center in the city.
It will build on the family-centered entertainment offerings that have grown in the downtown and Riverfront areas in recent years, including Riverwalk Mini Golf, Riverfront Rink, Constitution Yards Beer Garden, 76ers Fieldhouse, Jack A. Markell Trail and Penn Cinema Riverfront 14 + IMAX.
It all surrounds Delaware Children’s Museum on the Riverfront, the state’s first and only kid-centric museum, which opened more than a decade ago in the former Kahunaville.