On a cloudy Wednesday morning in Berkeley, an array of vibrant paint jobs offer a kaleidoscopic contrast to the long stretch of gray pavement on Adeline Street. When I spot the line of vintage VW buses, I know I’m in the right place: Buslab, a 19-year-old auto repair and used parts shop that specializes in what has become one of the most popular modes of transportation in the Bay Area.
A highlighter yellow bus with a matte, vinyl-wrapped body is parked in front of a beige Vanagon with a plaid-patterned interior and bright orange wheels splattered with mud. The trunk is practically overflowing with camping gear, and a hand-painted Route 66 ashtray rests on the dash. Next to it, a grasshopper green bus with a wooden cabinet setup inside has a string of blue beads hanging from the rearview mirror, while a white van with yellow, red and orange stripes has a knit blanket with a zig-zag print strewn over the fold-out bed that looks like it’s straight out of the basement from “That ’70s Show.” At least 30 other buses are snugly arranged in the nearby yard, waiting for repairs.
“The customer base is A to Z,” says owner Marco Greywe. “We have people come in that are 16 years old and people who are 82 years old. From the DJ to the old professor at Berkeley, there’s no formula to bus ownership. It’s multigenerational.”
A van on a hydraulic lift at Buslab.
Buslab was born at a 1,000-square-foot Richmond warehouse in 2002. Taking notice of the plethora of VW buses on the road, Greywe and his business partner Steve Perzan began to buy and sell the vehicles, accumulating a vast clientele before moving to a new location on Blake Street in downtown Berkeley, which they “quickly outgrew,” said Greywe. They leased their current building and its adjacent lot on the fork of Adeline Street and Stanford Avenue in 2010, and while it boasts five times the space they once had, the quarters are once again becoming cramped as the shop attempts to meet the demand of more customers than ever before.
“It is very difficult to find a bigger location in the Bay Area, so we make the best with what we have,” said Greywe.
Owner Marco Greywe talks with a mechanic driving a van at Buslab.
Inside the warehouse, the thrums of a string jazz quartet echo from a stereo, occasionally interrupted by the hiss of an air compressor or a mechanical grind as a bus is elevated on an alignment lift. A chocolate Labrador retriever — fittingly named Buster Lab — naps on an overstuffed dog bed next to his canine …….