Repaired Goods

Repair cafes salvage items and a culture 

A round of applause for the people who simply don’t like seeing things thrown away.

Long before ‘going green’ took on its modern meaning, the way to recycle something was to fix it. Sifting through hordes of throwaway culture reveals there are still people out there who exemplify this philosophy. Take Boscobel’s Repair Cafe, located in a little hamlet on the Hudson in Garrison, New York.

Organized in cooperation with The Repair Cafe Foundation, and Amsterdam-based group founded in 2010, Boscobel House and Gardens threw a little repair fair last weekend. The reception was enthusiastic. Participants brought in broken household items: antiques, lamps, clocks, window fans, woodwork, and of course, older electromechanical devices like typewriters and rare motors.

Atmosphere at these gatherings is a refreshing mix of profession and hobby, necessity and skill. “Do-it-yourselfers”—many of whom have repair experience and would prefer the term “repairmen”—enjoy teaching their breadth of knowledge with attendees hoping to salvage unique items.

This setting reflects a central goal of the European foundation: it wants to make repair a part of the local community once again. Repair Cafe aims to maintain and spread repair expertise, and to promote social cohesion by bringing together neighbors from all walks of life and sets of motivations in the form of inspiring and accessible meetings. This sensibility has begun to permeate American culture…especially the growing enclave of “D-I-Y” enthusiasts, who have quietly grown via YouTube.

In Garrison, “people handed their damaged goods off to handy volunteers—many of whom specialized in a certain craft, such as jewelry works, sewing or carpentry—to work on items free of charge,” Dan Reiner of the Lohud Journal-News reported June 17, the day of the event. Items included a 1930s window fan and a 1960s dual fan with broken motors.

Repair Cafes have a humble presence in corners across the country. The video above shows a cafe in Philadelphia; other locations over the past seven years include Bend, Ore., Kingston, N.Y., and Pasadena and San Francisco, Calif.

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