Where’s Sal?

Neighbors check for the latest news posted on the door of the shop.

On January 3, Salvador Valesco was in his upholstery shop at 2108 Sutter Street — as he had been for 30 years — working a little, talking a lot, cracking jokes with passersby. But as the first week of the new year unfolded, his neighbors began to realize they hadn’t seen him for a few days.

Sal Valesco in his shop.

The block of Sutter between Steiner and Pierce is home to a particularly close-knit group of residents and business owners. Sal — as everyone knew him — had been there longer than most and was friendly to all. But no one seemed to know anything about his personal life — not where he lived, or whether he had a family.

As the days passed, customers grew frustrated. “I would like my cushions back,” said a note taped to the door.

The mail carrier for the block mentioned to another carrier on Bush Street that Sal seemed to be missing. As it happened, the Bush Street postal worker knew where he lived: She delivered his mail to 2345 Bush, just around the corner from his shop.

And Sal had a lawyer. He posted a note on the door of Sal’s Custom Upholstery — alongside the one from the patron looking for his cushions — that Sal had been located in the intensive care unit at Kaiser Hospital a few blocks away on Geary. “We are trying to reach his family,” the note said.

Concerned neighbors continued to exchange information as they passed on the sidewalk. Some went to Kaiser to visit, but found him unresponsive. Eventually they located a daughter in Sacramento.

A new hand-written note on lined yellow paper went up on the door of the shop on January 16.

“Sal has been at Kaiser Hospital these past two weeks and in serious condition,” it said. “Chances of him pulling through are slim.” It was signed by Valorie Valesco, Sal’s daughter.

One of the neighbors invited his daughter to stay with her. Others offered assistance. Many called. Yet another note from his daugher went up on the door January 19.

“My father Sal passed away this morning at 5 a.m.,” it said. “I hope to have a memorial service for him soon.”

Details are pending.