Broken Stuff? Get It Fixed at The Repair Cafe

When I heard that WSU Snohomish County Extension was hosting a Repair Cafe right here in Everett, I immediately wanted to check it out. This program was started in the Netherlands, like so many great ideas, and is picking up speed in the U.S.

The idea is that volunteer fixers will make an effort (no guarantees) to fix anything that people bring in... for free! Last year was their pilot run, and they were able to save more than 50 items from landfills at each of the four events they held. It was such a success that they’re having six events this year.

Repair Cafe volunteer Jim inspects a broken pocket watch // Kate Bobal

Repair Cafe volunteer Jim inspects a broken pocket watch // Kate Bobal

I was greeted when I walked in and asked what I had brought to be fixed. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything that was broken, but I brought a friend and her grandfather's broken pocket watch. Fixers were situated around the perimeter of the room, and we were directed to the jewelry section where Jim spent a few minutes inspecting the watch. He told my friend which parts she would need to get it running again, and where she could start looking for them. He suggested that even if it couldn't be fixed, she could frame it like he had done with a similar family heirloom.

Great idea!  

Nearby was a line of ladies with sewing machines. I asked Julia, a volunteer sewer, what she was working on. "Oh, someone brought this in because it was too big for her," she said. "So I'm taking it in." Wow! I wondered how many things were in my "to donate" pile that only needed a minor alteration. Someone else came in to get advice on quilting. I walked away with a flyer for sewing classes.

Julia mending clothing // Kate Bobal

Julia mending clothing // Kate Bobal

Jerry wiping a hard drive nice and clean // Kate Bobal

Jerry wiping a hard drive nice and clean // Kate Bobal

Next Jerry, a volunteer with a knack for all things electronic, told me he was wiping a dead laptop so that it could be safely disposed of. Hmm… I’ve been wondering what to do with my old laptop. He told me a story about a woman who had brought in an antique toaster. Everyone was going about their business when a strong smell filled the room. The toaster was fixed, and she had brought two slices of bread to test it. It hadn't worked in decades but now it made two slices of prefect toast! I left Jerry alone to concentrate on a DVD player that had just arrived.

I watched another volunteer fix a pair of binoculars with a pair of old earrings he'd found at the kids table. He took the earrings apart and used the parts as ball bearings. How creative!

Others brought in toys, bicycles, and something that looked like a bread maker. Several kids came in throughout the day and eagerly made a beeline to the table that was just for them. They happily worked at their own creations while their parents had things fixed.

It was fun to see what people would bring in and how it would be repaired. I could have happily sat there all day watching, meeting people, and having great conversations in this friendly environment—especially with the free coffee and snacks they provided. Later that week when my hairdryer broke, I was actually excited! I have a whole armload of things to bring in to the next event on March 23.

If you aren’t sure if you should bring your item to the Repair Cafe, you can ask them via their Facebook page. Owners are responsible for buying/bringing in any parts needed to fix the broken item. The Sustainable Community Stewards program is always looking for new “repair specialist” volunteers. There is no need to be an expert, just be willing to help try.

If you are interested contact program coordinator Heather Teegarden. or call 425-357-6027.

Next events

March 23 and April 27, 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
at WSU Snohomish County Extension.

Community Partners include:

Snohomish County Solid Waste

Sharing Wheels Bike Shop

Mill Creek/Sno-Isle Libraries


Kate Bobal is a resident of Everett
and adventure enthusiast. #katesstillalive