Bob's Elm Street Service being forced out
PITTSFIELD — The operator of Bob's Elm Street Service is looking for a new location after learning the property's new owners plan to triple his rent.
Bob Plankey, who has operated his business at the Shell Service station at 275 Elm St. since 1998, said the group that recently took over the station told him they plan to raise his monthly rent from $1,600 to $5,500.
"He's more or less forcing me out," said Plankey, referring to the new owners, who bought the station from O'Connell Oil Associates of Pittsfield at auction on April 28.
Members of the new ownership group, who are from the New York City area, were not at the service station on Wednesday and did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
The group members have declined to identify themselves to The Eagle, and a deed signifying the transfer of ownership has not yet been filed at the Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds in Pittsfield.
Plankey plans to remain at Bob's Elm Street Service through mid-August.
"Not only are they going to put me out of business, but (three) others are going to go on the unemployment line," Plankey said, referring to his employees who work with him at the garage.
Plankey, who has been in the repair shop business in the southeast Pittsfield area for 40 years, had previously rented the service station's garage from O'Connell.
"O'Connell and I had a perfect marriage," Plankey said. "We were the last of the local neighborhood garages. There's nobody like us."
He said O'Connell originally offered to sell the station to him, but he declined because he believes the fuel tanks may need to be replaced.
Bob's Elm Street Service offers name brand tires, wheels, auto repair and brake services, according to its website. It also provides complete under-care services including oil changes, shocks, struts, alignment, and transmission fluid flush for both foreign and domestic vehicles.
Before going into business with O'Connell, Plankey worked at another location just two blocks away. He has been working in the same area since 1976. He would like to stay in southeast Pittsfield.
"I've been on Elm Street for over 35 years and need to stay close to where I'm at," he said. "I'm already losing customers. People are going elsewhere already."
When the new owners took over the service station in late June, five other employees who ran the full-service gas station were let go.
Although Plankey only rents the garage, he said some people in the area thought he owned the station and had fired those employees.
"O'Connell put my name on here many years ago," he said. "A lot of people thought I was responsible for those jobs and I'm not.
"I'm just a tenant," he said. "I'm getting thrown out on the street, too."