A slushy, cold and wintry mix didn’t stop residents from seeking shelter, beer and household item repairs at Seymour, the Pub.
The cozy spot on Bank Row was abuzz with the sound of tools, conversation and the occasional whir of a vacuum motor that one of the volunteers was attempting to repair. The front part of the pub was transformed into a makeshift tool shed with tool kits, zip ties and other odds and ends that may have been useful for a repair. Donation buckets sat on each table. While repairs were free, attendees were encouraged to donate to Habitat for Humanity.
Repair Public sponsored the fix-it event shortly after the one-year anniversary of its first repair event, which was also held at Seymour.
According to Repair Public, the point of these events is to encourage people to learn how or where to get their broken items fixed so they don’t end up in a landfill. Volunteers did their best to fix broken items and narrated the process so owners could know how to fix the item in the future.
By 2:30 p.m., a steady stream of locals came through the door. Some held tiny lamps; others wrangled vacuum cleaners and sewing machines.
First, they checked in with Repair Public mastermind Ben Gagnon to sign a waiver. The waiver informed participants that while the volunteers try their best, they aren’t always able to fix everything.
Repair Public takes off
Gagnon began Repair Public after seeing a video about repair cafes in the Netherlands.
“It just really spoke to me as something I could participate in,” he said. He explained that this endeavor didn’t have many overhead costs and quite frankly, the service was needed in the area.
He put out a call for volunteers and began to get a crew, beginning with personal friends. Currently, he has about 15 names on his volunteer list but he is still looking for more.
Some of the volunteers are experts in specific repairs, like woodworking or electronics. But he calls many of his volunteers “generalists” who are capable of fixing a wide array of items.
“They’re all way smarter than I am,” he said with a laugh.
Gagnon and his volunteers’ goal is not to compete with local businesses or fix things while the owners leave the premises; they intend to help people figure out how to fix their items and give items a longer life.
Repair Public accepts items such as small appliances and furniture, clothes, toys, garden tools and small electronic items. The group asks that people don’t bring computers, items under warranty, items that need welding, or “anything living” because, “We can’t fix the fact that your cat is a jerk.”
Gagnon is pleased that his repair events are picking up the pace; he says the last few events have been “very busy.” The most recent event was held late January in Amherst, and 25 people came in two hours.
A fix-it attitude
Erica Drake wanted to get her sewing machine fixed at the Amherst event, but wasn’t able to make it. Thankfully, she was able to show up at Seymour, sewing machine in hand. Her 4-year-old daughter, Juniper West, accompanied her.
The sewing machine’s needle wasn’t working properly, so volunteer Jill Messick set out to fix it.
“We’re putting lubrication on it … and we’ll look at the motor too,” she said, inspecting the machine.
Drake and her daughter were invited to walk around the pub and take a peek at the other repairs going on, which included a chair, a vacuum and a few lamps.
Dan Gilbert, another volunteer, sat up in the front of the pub, fixing a broken lamp. In front of him was a 3D printer he built himself.
“Sometimes (the printer) is useful to make a part,” he explained as he tinkered with the lamp’s stand.