If It’s Broken, Take It to the Repair Café

Experts give misfit toys and broken treasures new life at the Repair Café, a new repair service group now offered on select dates at New Paltz Methodist Church.

People cart in antique dolls, furniture, frazzled electronics and other items that they consider beyond their own repair.

Susan Hollow, a doll restorer, has worked for three years to fixing dolls that have been passed from generation to generation.

Hollow uses dental tools for precision in the delicate process.

“I’m probably going to get in trouble with the doll aficionados of the world,” Hollow said.“But they’re going to work out.”

Hollow said she’s always scavenging for doll parts and pieces to salvage and reuse — part of why she’s volunteered her doll restoring services at the New Paltz Repair Café.

The toy dolls and stuffed animals table was one of five stations at the Repair Café on Saturday in the downstairs social room at the New Paltz Methodist Church.

Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., people brought in their broken items and a volunteer, often with professional experience in the field, repaired their item for free.

The other tables included mechanics, electric and electronics (M.E.E.), wooden products, digital device reconfiguration, clothing and textiles.

John Wackman started the Repair Café in May, after reading a New York Times article about the first Repair Café, which was founded in Amsterdam in October 2009.

The original Dutch Repair Café included a mission to reduce the waste stream and “transform our throw away economy one beloved item at a time.”

In 2010, the Repair Café Foundation was established as a non-profit organization to help provide support to local groups and communities looking to start their own Repair Café.

After he decided to start a location in New Paltz — the fourth of its kind in the United States — the foundation provided Wackman with the “nuts and bolts stuff.”

Wackman said a quote on the wall by Leonard Cohen is the touchstone of the Café: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

Saturday’s Repair Café was the third since May, and Wackman said the most popular items have been practical ones: lamps and vacuum cleaners, which are both repaired at the M.E.E. table.

Wackman said when he approached people he thought were qualified to volunteer at one of the stations in the initial process, he looked for professionals and hobbyists.

“[They’re] people who, when they were kids, liked to take things apart and try to put them back together,” he said. “First they would take things apart and couldn’t get them back together, but have learned enough that they can now.”

One of the experts is Esopus resident Cindy Caparo, who has worked as a tailor for “The Michael Jay Fox Show” and “Law and Order: SVU.” Caparo has volunteered at the last two Repair Cafés.

“I get emotionally attached to my objects, so I appreciate when people have things that they’re attached to,” Caparo said. “I understand what it’s like to want to hold onto the things that you love.”

Wackman said that these repair experts serve as coaches as well as specialists.

“It telegraphs the idea that you’re working with someone, not just handing it over,” he said. “You’re engaged.”

Wackman said that he likes to emphasize “Café,” not just because there is free coffee and tea, but because he wants to “create something that is fun and sociable,” a place with positive, purposeful energy. The Café forms bonds through service and the simple spirit of goodwill.