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A Repair Cafe for PDX

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I love Portland! Just when I think we’ve reached our maximum quotient of hip, cool, nerdy individuals, great restaurants and diverse events, this thriving metropolis adds something new to the mix.

Sit down for this proclamation: Portland is not perfect.

I know. Crazy, right?

But Portland has been missing something. A place that everyone needs and needs to love – a Repair Café. These cafés exist in Europe, where people stop by the venue on designated nights to have a coffee and get their toasters repaired. Or the hole in their sweater darned, or perhaps a ripped piece of drapery fixed. Like-minded citizens volunteer their services and skills in an effort to keep goods in good working order and out of the landfill. People stay busy, connected, and perhaps well-hydrated (or, at least well-caffeinated). Pretty cool.

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Sounds like such a simple concept – and one that simply must exist in Portland, the greenest, grooviest city around. Palo Alto has a Repair Café. But when I started snooping around, I found out Portland didn’t. The world was clearly out of balance! And then a group of like-minded individuals started contacting people around town who had expressed interest in Repair Cafés. They got the ball rolling. Meetings ensued, and damn, they got this crazy-smart idea started up right here. With the help of people from Metro, anti-plastic crusaders, the Reuse Alliance, people who know how to repair (you name it), the Tool Library (do you have a tool inventory like my dad or Ace Hardware in the pics above? I do not!) and many others, the first Repair Node event (a Café is still in the works) will take place at Alberta’s Last Thursday event on May 30th. The repair experts – a sturdy team of volunteers – will be at work from 5:30 to 8:00pm on NE 17th Avenue and Alberta Street strategically perched between the Community Cycling Center and the Umoja Center.

Years and years ago, I saw Sex, Lies, and Videotape at the theater. (Yes, I’m that old.) In one scene, Andie MacDowell is discussing the many reasons she cannot sleep, and one item on her list (per my imperfect memory) was I think about everything in the landfills. How long can we keep putting stuff in landfills? Well, I felt like I’d met a kindred spirit. I’m one of those dorks who looks in my garbage can and says, How do I cut this in half? I hate the mountains of garbage we are creating. When and why did it become OK to toss everything at the first sign of wear and tear? Let’s reverse that trend. And to that end I will be taking holey sweaters to Last Thursday, baby. I’m going to take the right thread, too, just in case there’s a darner there with time on his or her hands. Which brings us to the actual repairing.

For this first outing the group will likely be providing:

  • shoe polishing (shoe repair to follow)
  • sewing (bring those draperies!)
  • and computer repair.

The group is working on adding small electronics repair to the mix (don’t throw out your broken toaster just yet), as well as toy and jewelry repair, plus much more.

The second Repair Café event is planned for June 20th at Ford Food and Drink from 630 to 900PM. More information to follow.

If you are curious about the logistics of a Repair Café, please check out the website for the Repair Café in Palo Alto. See the list of items that can commonly be repaired, plus the caveats they have delineated.

And then sit back and think about landfills and our disposable culture. How can you help avoid wasting? How you can fix something that ain’t (that) broke? Repair rather than tossing! Perhaps you would like to repair goods in an altruistic, nerdy, authentically PDX way, but have no fix-it skills to speak of. Perhaps you have a skill that would help operations run smoothly?

Well, volunteers are also needed to check people in, keep things moving, set up, take down, you name it. Perhaps you actually do have other marketable skills. Do you solder, sew, tinker, fix bikes? If you do, check out the Repair Node Facebook page and consider volunteering (the website will be up soon at www.repairpdx.org). Or stop by NE Alberta Street on May 30th or Ford Food and Drink on June 20th to talk to the team. We would love to see you. And, you’ll get a kick out of all the stuff that can be fixed and learn more from the people who fix all that stuff.

About Nancy Ranchel

Nancy is an accountant who offsets the practicality of her day job with extravagant and outrageous remodeling projects, often involving massive amounts of scrap metal.  In her free time she can be found dreaming up new ways to turn her house into an art installation, digging through scrap heaps, and contemplating a world without plastic. Check out Nancy’s blog here: www.replaceinpdx.com/

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