By Don Ford

PIEDMONT (KPIX 5) — A popular neighborhood gas station in the East Bay is in jeopardy after the landlord decided to double the station operators rent starting next year.

The Valero station owned by Simon Ho owns only gas station in town. He says it has only weeks before closing down.

“Right now, I’m paying $8,000 a month and they went up to $17,000 something. Overnight,” said Ho. “I really can’t [afford] that kind of number.”

Now Ho is facing a serious problem with his business in jeopardy just days before Christmas. On the bright side, the Piedmont residents KPIX 5 spoke to could not be more loyal.

“Simon’s done a great job!” exclaimed one customer.

“It’s the greatest place. I totally trust them,” said another.

The gas station has become more than just a gas station. Only a block from Piedmont High, it has become the de facto lunch time gathering place.

“Many people go here every day, so it would definitely be sad to see it go,” said Piedmont High student Sam Corcoran.

Ho isn’t sure what comes next.

“I don’t really know what to do at this point,” he said.

Loyal customer and friend Robert Majteles offered some reassuring support.

“We’ll go wherever he goes! So, if he opens up, you know, wherever he opens up — and he will, because he’s great at this — we’ll follow him. And I bet we’re not the only ones,” said Majteles.

Ho said he is still talking to the landlord and hopes they can reach a compromise. KPIX 5 reached out to the landlord too, but he didn’t return phone calls provide a comment.