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If It’s Broke Fix It: New York’s Itinerant Repair Sets Up Shop in Atlanta

September 15,2017

Source: Kristyn Back, Gather Good

If it’s broke, fix it…Or store it in your closet for three years while it collects dust. If you’re like us, you have a myriad of shattered and tattered items in desperate need of repair. Let’s assess the situation. By the time you collect up all your broken items and drive all over town finding the right people to fix it (not even thinking about picking it up) you’re left with hours of lost productivity. Throw in Atlanta traffic and yeah, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Back in 2013, Sandra Goldmark faced a similar dilemma. “My vacuum broke while I was home with my newborn, plus a bunch of other stuff – a lamp, a backpack, etc. I called the vacuum repair people and they told me the nearest service center was in Hackensack, New Jersey. I thought, “Are you kidding me? I have a newborn child, I’m not driving my vacuum to Hackensack!”

“I figured other people felt this way. I can’t be the only busy working parent in New York that thinks this is ridiculous. I also didn’t want to buy a new vacuum.”

A little bad luck went a long way for Sandra, sparking the idea for Pop Up Repair, an itinerant shop with humble beginnings. As a theatrical set designer, Sandra knew plenty of fixers who could tackle this problem.

“If this were a show and we needed that vacuum to work we would figure it out. Someone working backstage would have the skills. Some great electrician would know how to fix it because theatre is a microcosm of the world. You have lights, sound, furniture and clothing, and of course, people breaking all those things. And backstage, you have amazingly creative people with the skills to fix them.”

From there, Sandra put together questions she had, ranging from ‘Are other people frustrated?’ to ‘Can we actually fix stuff?’She also had some lofty goals.

“I had a letter written to Walmart. I was going to go to Walmart in Arkansas and convince them to open a repair shop in the corner of every store. My husband Michael said, “Do you even know anyone at Walmart? Because they are not necessarily going to open their boardroom doors to you.”

“Point taken…So we did it ourselves. For now! We opened a little repair shop in our neighborhood. It was a local pharmacist who rented us his storefront and helped support us and that was the beginning of our partnership model. Many different neighborhood groups and community groups helped us get the word out, provided tools, and support.”

With their repair shop ready to rock, there was one remaining unknown.

“We opened a little repair shop and got a bunch of theatre colleagues to staff it. We opened our doors wondering if anyone was going to show up. People showed up like you would not believe. They came out of the woodwork and loved it for a number of reasons.”

“They loved the idea of being able to get something fixed conveniently and locally. They loved the idea of local artisans using their skills for this other seemingly unconnected problem of overconsumption and waste. And they loved the convenience of being able to bring all these different things to one place. This was a game-changer for them.”

“For me, my vacuum was one errand but I also had the lamp and a necklace and the backpack I need fixing and before I knew it, that was five errands. Five errands in my life is a total deal breaker! The idea that you could bring your blender and your lamp and your chair and your necklace and your kid’s toy to one place was like, Ah – now it’s convenient!”

Over the last four years, Pop Up Repair has held 11 successful pop-ups, with Atlanta being the first out of state partnership thanks to the chutzpah of local Woodruff Park Project Manager, Ansley Whipple.

“Ansley emailed me after hearing about us and thinking the concept was interesting. We talked and she had the personal get-up-and-go and the organizational support to make it happen. She was really serious and willing to make it happen. She also found another great partner, Freeside Atlanta, a maker space with talented fixers and tools.”

“I had seen Pop Up Repair in New York and thought it would be great to bring it to Atlanta and into the park,” Ansley stated. “I Initially called them to see if they had any advice or wanted to be involved and it just so happened that they were interested in seeing if their model would scale to other cities.”

“We also connected with Freeside to be the fixers. I thought a maker space would be perfect to partner with because we had half of the equation. We have the marketing ability, the spot for drop-off and pick-up, but we don’t have anyone on our payroll who does repairs. I went and visited Freeside and it was a perfect match. They can fix anything because they have every kind of tool you could imagine. It’s such a cool space.”

“This was the model we set up at the very beginning which was kind of an accident, to be honest,” Sandra added. “Local, convenient drop-off spots, working with community partners to make it accessible, and providing the community with one-stop drop off for all different types of household stuff.”

“If we can make repair healthy and sustainable and part of our economy, I think it’s long lasting. If fixers can pick up extra money by repairing things and providing a service that is good for the individual customer, good for the environment, and good for the local economy it’s win/win/win.”

Led by a strong team of all women, Pop Up Repair Atlanta will be open to taking all your broken stuff from September 24 – 30. You can find their list of repairable items here. Some examples include chairs, lamps, jewelry, appliances, toys, clothes, and frames. Items that PUR doesn’t fix include shoes, bikes, iPad screens, software problems, very fine jewelry, clothing mends that require a fitting (alterations).