MANDATA — Donald and Roberta Molaro stood alone in the middle of a quiet, empty rink Friday morning, their hands tightly wrapped around each other as they reflected on 26 years of owning the Skatery.
Roberta wiped her eyes with a handkerchief; Donald had an air of nostalgia about him.
“When we first opened the rink, it was because we were avid skaters ourselves and we wanted to share it with people,” Roberta said. “All of sudden, it become a mission. We were here to be here for the people that came.”
Parents felt safe letting their children stay at the rink, and the Molaros treated them as if they were their own.
“We loved every one of them,” she said.
“Oh yeah,” Donald agreed. “We’re going to miss them.”
On Monday, the Dornsife couple, both age 77, will transfer ownership of the business along Route 225 near the Line Mountain Middle/High School to its new owners, brothers Troy and Todd Laudenslager.
“We really don’t want to do this, but at our age — even though our health is really good — you never know what’s going to happen,” Roberta said.
Even though they have been working to take it all down, not all the cards, thank-you notes and banners hanging on the walls are gone yet. Many are still taped up.
Originally known as Double R Skate Ranch, the rink was built by Reynold Feger and Richard Baumert in 1981. The Molaros bought the rink in 1988 — 30 years after Donald and Roberta met and fell in love at a Long Island rink.
It’s the “best-kept secret in the Valley,” the Molaros said.
The business is home to a full-service snack bar and 14 tables, arcade games, a birthday party room, a DJ area and a 9,990-square-foot rink.
The Molaros originally planned to turn the keys over to their son, Donald Jr., but his death 19 years ago ended that dream.
They turned down many offers over the years because the interested parties were not willing to keep the building as a skating rink, like the Laudenslagers plan to do.
In the past 26 years, the Molaros said the Skatery has hosted hundreds of school, church, Scout, business and birthday parties, and they’ve taught thousands of young people and adults to skate.
Relationships were even forged in the building.
“We’ve seen so many bring their children back to introduce them to the sport of their own youth,” Roberta said.
Their School of Roller Skating provided “FUNdamentals,” they said.
Advanced lessons have produced dozens of state champions and a few regional titles have also been won by Skatery students, while several have qualified for national competitions.
While none have ever won a national title, the Molaros are still proud.
“As long as they don’t place last, I’m thrilled,” Roberta said. “And none of them have ever placed last.”
The Skatery has also offered the only Special Olympics Roller Skating program in more than a 50-mile radius. Intellectually disabled athletes have been training at the Skatery since 1990 to compete in several Special Olympics competitions each year.
One was even named Special Olympics Roller Skater of the year in 1999, they said.
In 2006, the Molaros received the Heart of the Industry award from the Roller Skating Association, International after touring the USA and teaching hundreds of roller rink operators their “Roller Skating FUNdamentals” program, which is now used in rinks across the continent.
Between 2001 and 2013, Roberta was an officer of the PA/NJ/DE section of the Roller Skating Association, which she held every office but treasurer.