Rent hike hits Valero station owner hard

Simon Ho

Simon Ho, owner of the Valero station in downtown Piedmont has been hit with a huge increase in rent. Rent for the corner lot at Highland Ave and Highland Way will increase close to 110 percent, from $8,000 a month to close to $17,000 a month.

“I’ll have to leave if we can’t come to a reasonable agreement,” said Ho. “I understand an increase is needed, but this is really unfair and there’s not much recourse.” Ho says he will be out in ninety days if no deal is reached. The Valero station is one of two gas stations in Piedmont and part of only a handful of businesses that make up the downtown.

Ho purchased the business in 2009 from Howard Perera and turned it around to a successful business. It took him years to build trust in the community and it has since become the go-to place for gas, car service, or a quick snack or lottery ticket. “It hasn’t been easy,” Ho says. “The volume of gas sales is limited in a small community and as a family-oriented community, people leave on the weekends and holidays. Gas sales are continuing a downward trend as more and more Piedmonters buy green cars.”

The Valero station’s convenience store is also a popular destination for local middle and high school students, who are drawn to the location by the inexpensive candy and snacks. “Simon always has a smile and says Hi when we are buying snacks and he is great to talk to about cars,” says Paul Pappas, a junior at Piedmont High School.

Many residents have come to rely on Ho’s garage for auto maintenance and service.  “Simon works hard to accommodate everyone’s service needs, even on short notice. He’s honest, reliable, and experienced and that’s why he’s the only one I depend on for my personal and company patrol vehicles,” says Randy Price a Piedmont resident and co-owner of Premiere Protective Service.

The owner of the property, Tarvinder Bains-Randhawa, a past resident of Piedmont and associated with Karm Enterprise could not be reached for comment.

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