Shop Talk: Svensson, Sal’s, MSC Custom, Convert

Svensson Automotive Photo Jerome Solberg
Svensson Automotive on San Pablo Avenue is closing. Photo: Jerome Solberg
Photo: Jerome Solberg
Baljeet Pal. Photo: Jerome Solberg

SVENSSON AUTOMOTIVE CLOSING AFTER 50 YEARS Svensson Automotive, which was founded in Berkeley by Rune Svensson in 1966, has closed up shop at 1740 San Pablo Ave. Current owner Baljeet Pal, who most customers know as BJ, said the business is closing as the property owner intends to turn the land into apartments (Berkeleyside has not been able to confirm this yet). The auto shop originally specialized in servicing and repairing Swedish car makes, such as Saab and Volvo, but subsequently expanded to include Toyotas. BJ immigrated to the U.S. in 1977 from India, and began working at the auto shop with his father, who then owned the business, in 1980, according to Jerome Solberg who spoke to him recently. BJ bought the business in 1985. “I really want to thank all of the loyal customers I have had over the past 35 years, they made my job enjoyable and rewarding,” BJ said to Solberg. “I am proud to say that my business put all three of my children through college and all of them pursued postgraduate educations. I now plan to semi-retire, play a lot of golf, and tour the world!” BJ will spend the non-leisure part of his retirement at Svensson’s second location in Lafayette which he opened in 1994.

Convert store in San Francisco. A new Convert Collections store will open Feb. 23 in the former Convert Shoes space at xxxx Fourth St. Photo: Convert
Convert store in San Francisco. A new Convert Collections store will open Feb. 23 in the former Convert Shoes space at 1844 Fourth St. Photo: Convert

CONVERT COLLECTION The Convert shoe store at 1844 Fourth St. has been shuttered for about a month but will re-open Tuesday Feb. 23, in soft-opening mode, as Convert Collection, a store more focused on clothing than shoes, although there will be some of the latter. (The Convert store across the street, at 1809 Fourth St., remains the same.) Owners Randy Brewer and Fred Whitefield say they will offer a selection of men’s and women’s apparel brands with “heightened refinement and luxury in their fabrication and design.” Convert specializes in sustainable clothing lines and accessories with a focus on “made in America.” Featured brands will likely include: Citizens of Humanity Premium Vintage, Baracuta, Max & Chester, JW Brine, Free People and Graf & Lantz, as well as new-to-Convert made-in-America lines such as Frame Denim, Stateside, Raleigh Denim, Velvet, Fidelity Denim and Woolrich Blue Line. Convert Collection, 1844 Fourth Street, Berkeley.

Photo: Jane Tierney
Photo: Jane Tierney

SALS PHARMACY CLOSED A reader tipped us via Twitter that family-owned Sals’ Phamacy at 1831 Solano Ave. closed on Feb. 19 after nearly four years serving North Berkeley. Sal’s, which was owned and run by Sadalla Nassar as an independent neighborhood pharmacy, opened in May 2012. All the pharmacy customers’ prescription records have been transferred to Safeway Pharmacy at 1500 Solano Ave. in Albany, as have the pharmacy’s telephone lines, as of Feb. 20, according to a letter sent by Sal’s to its customers. Meanwhile, Sal’s will reopen to hold a liquidation “everything must go” sale starting Feb. 23, offering 20% off all non-prescription-related stock. A notice on Sal’s door says it will remain open until it has liquidated all its remaining non-pharmacy inventory. Sal’s Pharmacy, 1831 Solano Ave. Berkeley. 

New York's MSC Customs bike store will open on Telegraph Avenue later this month. Photo: Ted Friedman
New York’s MSC Customs bike store at 2422 Telegraph Ave. has shuttered. Photo: Ted Friedman

MSC CUSTOM BIKES CLOSED MSC Customs, purveyor of made-to-order single-speed track bikes, has closed its shop at 2422 Telegraph Ave. after less than two years of operation. The company, which is out of New York, assembled and sold bikes and also offered a clothing line designed for cyclists. The Telegraph Avenue store was only the second brick-and-mortar location for MSC Customs. When it opened in November 2014, co-owner Thomas Leong said: “We thought the West Coast would be a great move. Berkeley is a great place for riders.” [Hat-tip: Ted Friedman.]

Shop Talk is our regular column in which we post updates on Berkeley businesses. If you’re a Berkeley business with news, or a Berkeleysider who has spotted a change in your neighborhood or on your travels, shoot us an email with the details. Read previous Shop Talk columns, and check out Bites for the latest East Bay restaurant news.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: