After 30 years on the corner of Telegraph and Ashby, Inca Service, run by Hugo Cornejo, will close at the end of April.
According to Cornejo, Chevron has sold the site to an independent operator, Arash Salkhi from Santa Rosa Grand Petroleum. Cornejo was unable to reach a lease agreement with Salkhi. Cornejo said that while he was in negotiations with Salkhi, Salkhi placed an ad on Craigslist seeking new tenants for the mechanics space, claiming the existing leaseholder — Cornejo — was retiring.
Three years ago this month Cornejo staved off closure of Inca Service after a story on Berkeleyside provoked an outpouring of community support protesting Chevron’s plans to replace Inca Service with a mini-mart. Since then, Cornejo has been working on a month-to-month lease from the oil giant.
“Being an independent is getting tougher and tougher,” Cornejo said. “I’m surprised myself that we’re still here. I think in any case my wheel bearings are beginning to scrape a little bit.”
Cornejo said that his turnover used to be around $1 million annually, but it had dropped to around $400,000 last year. He said that he has had consistent difficulty finding skilled mechanics, or young people interested in learning the trade.
“When the baby boomers retire, there’s going to be a critical shortage of mechanics,” he said.
Cornejo said he was unsure of his plans once Inca Service closes on April 30. He said he’d like to keep working with his colleague David Parker if they can find space. Cornejo is also considering returning to his native Peru.
Inca Service: The Berkeley community wins [04.27.10]
Inca Service: Not the end of the road [04.19.10]
Closure looms for Inca Service on Ashby [04.09.10]
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