In November, we lamented the loss of Claremont 76. Now it looks like another much-loved and patronized auto repair shop, Inca Service, will vanish.

Hugo Cornejo has been repairing cars at the Chevron station on the corner of Telegraph and Ashby since 1983. Plenty of his customers have been going to Hugo for almost 30 years. But it looks as though Inca Service will close at the end of this month. Chevron, which bought the service station from Cornejo six years ago, plans to expand the mini-mart to a “maxi-mart”, which will mean the elimination of the repair shop.

Cornejo says that since the sale of the station, his repair service has been on successive one-year contracts. Rents have gone up steadily and now are 20% of gross sales.

When word spread recently about potential closure, loyal clients flocked to Inca. According to Cornejo, March was the best month in the last year. But the recession has hurt his business as with so many others. He used to get considerable business, for example, from the university. With recent cutbacks, however, many university departments have reduced or eliminated their vehicle fleets.

“We’ve built up an amazing client group with a lot of support from the community,” Cornejo says. “I’ve tried to negotiate something with Chevron but there’s a total disconnect. They could care less about what’s going to happen next month or next year.”

Cornejo said that he has had discussions with some realtors about alternative locations. He is concerned, however, that a new location would mean building another business from scratch.

Update [6.19.10]: For readers coming to this post in isolation, we urge you to read two later stories which detail how Inca Service was able to remain open, largely thanks to community response to this Berkeleyside story. Read all about it at Inca Service: Not the end of the road, and Inca Service: The Berkeley community wins.

Avatar photo

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...