My ReThink Local “guest post”

“Repair Café” Gets Stuff Fixed

Guest blog by John Wackman for

Welcome to Repair Cafe!

Welcome to Repair Cafe!

Repair Café is a free community meeting place to bring your beloved but broken item to get fixed.  The heart of the idea is that you– yes you–participate in the repair with the help of a “repair coach”.

The idea was born in Amsterdam in 2009 and is just beginning to pop up in the U.S.  Our New Paltz project—which kicked off in May—is part of that first wave.

Here are 5 good things to know about it.

Repair Cafe has layers

Repair café is about these things:  Extend the life of stuff you care about.  Preserve & pass-on repair know-how.  Get curious about the way things work.  Use tools. Sit elbow-to-elbow at a work table with your neighbor.  Have fun.

We say bring your “beloved but broken” item to Repair Café.  A friend said, “I guess that means I shouldn’t just bring any old piece of crap.”

Hmmm.  That’s sorta true.  It means the item you bring should mean something to you.  You’d really like to keep it.

Eilene Cutler & Friend w/ vacuum cleaner

Eilene Cutler & Friend w/ vacuum cleaner

So, what kind of stuff gets fixed? 

Ever heard of a “Magic Quartz Cooker”?  They made them in the 60s.  Ellen James remembers her mother using it to broil fish year-round on the back porch (keep that fishy smell out of the house, dontcha know).  Ellen brought it, our repair coaches put their heads together, and Ellen left impressed & happy.  “Swell crowd” she wrote in our Comments book.

What else?  Vacuum cleaners, CDs, radios, skirts & sweaters, chairs and lamps (lamp parts are available “at cost”).  Marie Young’s “good old” shopping cart got a new wooden (!) wheel.  Kimiko Link’s daughter brought her doll baby with a smushed face.  Felicia Casey at our Dolls & Stuffed Animals worktable made her feel better.  Across the room, Justin Peone was reconfiguring laptops.

Marisa makes light!

Marisa makes light!

Who are the Repair Coaches?

Guys and gals with significant repair skills who volunteer their time for 5 hours on the occasional Saturday.  Some run professional repair businesses—for them this is a way to get out in the community and get better known.  Some are retired—the Retired Men of New Paltz group has stepped up nicely.  Pretty much everyone shares this trait:  they all liked to take stuff apart when they were kids.

The profile of a good Repair Coach is a person who is:

– A curious troubleshooter
– A good listener
– Wants to help make the repair…but won’t be frustrated if that isn’t reasonable or possible

Repair Cafe July flyer-Spanish- REV1 (1)

Café de Raparaciones

For our July 20 event, we are reaching out to the mid-Hudson Latino community.  Marisa Villarreal, one of our ace repair coaches, translated our flyer.

There will be several Spanish-speaking repair coaches at the event.  Some of you may know Wolf Bravo, organizer of Ulster County Tool Share.  He’ll be there teaching tool sharpening.

A Deeper Layer

A deeper layer is frankly theological.  Do you know the Leonard Cohen lyric: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”  It is no accident that the United Methodist Church of New Paltz has provided a home for Repair Café.  Central to every wisdom tradition is the idea of “healing that which is broken” (in Hebrew Tikkun Olam: Repair of the World).

repaird plateThe people who started Repair Café in Amsterdam started the Repair Café Foundation to replicate this idea everywhere.  Their English-language website is  We in New Paltz were helped by the Repair Café organizers in Pittsfield MA who started up last January.  We are currently helping the group just getting started in New Mexico.

Only one more thing to say.  What beloved but broken item will you bring to the Repair Café on July 20?


When: Saturday, July 20, 10am – 3pm

(on-going the 3rd Saturday of every other month through 2013)

Where: New Paltz United Methodist Church, corner of Main St. & Grove St.

The Café side provides sustenance for your repair journey.  Coffee and tea are  free; baked treats and fruit will be for sale.

Sponsors: New Paltz United Methodist Church and New Paltz Climate Change Coalition

Facebook page: Repair café New Paltz


About John Wackman

A writer since I learned to hold a pencil (no, not like that...hold it like this!). Long-time writer/producer for television, now organizer of Repairs Cafes in the Hudson Valley (13 & counting!) -- Program Manager of Solarize Hudson Valley, non-profit, state supported, community sponsored renewable energy program. We're all re-inventing ourselves. It's a sci-fi world, isn't it?
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