DESPITE AN OUTPOURING of support from its customers in the neighborhood, Shell Auto Repair at 2501 California has received notice it must close by January 31.
UPDATE: Just as they were preparing to pack up their tools and shut down, the mechanics at Shell Auto Repair got a three-month reprieve. The business will continue through April 30, giving its two mechanics extra time to find a new location.
“We’re going to see about lining up an alternative location for the shop,” said owner Doug Fredell. “If not, we’ll close. We at least have a fighting chance.”
The owners of the Shell station have submitted plans to the city that would eliminate the garage, add gas pumps and replace the current building with a two-story 24-hour Loop Marketplace convenience store and cafe. The proposal is expected to come before the Planning Commission early in the new year.
More than 200 people signed an online petition opposing the plans and dozens sent letters and emails to City Hall.
Mechanic Doug Fredell, who has leased the garage for the past decade, said he and fellow mechanic Chelse Batti have been overwhelmed by the support they received from the community.
“The neighborhood really stepped forward,” Fredell said. “It’s pretty incredible to know people care that much.”
Ultimately, that support appears to have backfired. When the owner of the station, Nick Goyal, learned that officials at City Hall were listening to neighborhood sentiment against his plans, he notified Fredell he had to be out by January 31.
“It’s a lot cleaner to have the space empty for whatever they want to do,” said Fredell, who had a month-to-month lease. He sought legal advice about his options and found he had none.
Fredell said he has hired a broker to look for another space, preferably nearby, but has found nothing so far.
“Anything that’s a car repair shop is being turned into something else,” he said. “Too bad there isn’t a nice little place on Sutter Street, where everybody else is going.”
Fredell said he remains hopeful a new location will surface — perhaps through a client — in the new year.
“We spent a lot of time building up a good business,” Fredell said. “We wanted to be that place in the neighborhood that is indispensible to people.”
He said telling customers the garage has a definite closing date has been tough.
“Customers get so outraged,” he said. “They found a good place they liked and could trust.”
The garage has operated continuously on that corner for decades. It was owned by Bud Martinez for nearly 60 years. After Fredell took over, Martinez continued to work part time until his death in 2012.
EARLIER: “This Bud’s for you“