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In It to Fix It

In a time when many people seem to see every broken item as something to be thrown away, few may consider repair as an alternative. Mike Filbin, owner of Filbin’s Ace Hardware, wants to change that. As a solution, he and several other community members have started a Repair Café in their hometown of Vancouver, Washington.

The Repair Café is an international initiative to encourage people to repair broken items they might have around the home instead of throwing them away. This program helps reduce the strain on landfills. The foundation organizes events where volunteers help members of their communities fix various household items.

This year, Filbin and his team hosted several Repair Cafés, including one at Filbin’s Ace. During the event, community members with broken items brought them to the Café and a volunteer helped them fix it. Volunteers have a range of skills, such as appliance, bicycle or garment repair.

The event serves as an educational opportunity, too. Anyone who brings in an item for repair receives a consultation on how to fix the item and gets help fixing it at no cost. They only have to pay for any new parts required.

“There is a big educational component to the Café,” Filbin says. “This its not like taking your broken appliance to the shop, dropping it off and picking it up when it’s fixed. You sit down at the table across from the repair specialist and you fix it together.”

While attendees were waiting for their time with a repair specialist, Filbin offered them warm chocolate chip cookies, baked on one of his grills. He also had one of his vendors on hand to demonstrate furniture restoration techniques.

“This turned out to be a really cool event with minimal direct costs,” he says. “It required time, community involvement and a willingness to share control of the event with our community partners, but it would be a big lift to try and pull off alone,” he says.

Not only is Filbin saving landfills through the Repair Café, but he’s also creating future customers.

“The biggest value for us is the educational opportunity for a new generation of customers who didn’t grow up fixing things. We’re teaching them how to fix the items they otherwise may have just thrown away, and we are turning them into the types of people who are willing to take something apart and try to fix it. That’s the type of person who’s going to shop our store.”

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NHPA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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