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‘Fixers’ to the rescue: Repair Public event gives people a chance have broken items mended by experts

  • Justin Carvalho, left, of Holyoke and Joey Newlin of Amherst diagnose a broken blender that Newlin brought in to a Repair Public “fixery” held at Bistro 63 in Amherst on Sunday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ben Gagnon of Holyoke and Rene Kane of Northampton work to get the shifter and derailleur on her bicycle up to speed during a Repair Public “fixery” held at Bistro 63 in Amherst on Sunday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Justin Carvalho of Holyoke disassembles a broken blender brought in by Joey Newlin of Amherst during a Repair Public "fixery" held at Bistro 63 in Amherst on Sunday, April 9, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ben Gagnon of Holyoke lubricates the shift mechanism on a bicycle brought into a Repair Public "fixery" held at Bistro 63 in Amherst on Sunday, April 9, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rene Kane of Northampton oils her bicycle chain during a Repair Public “fixery” held at Bistro 63 in Amherst on Sunday, April 9, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ben Gagnon of Holyoke evaluates the road-readiness of a bicycle brought to his Repair Public "fixery" by Rene Kane of Northampton during an event held at Bistro 63 in Amherst on Sunday, April 9, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



@JackSuntrup
Friday, April 14, 2017

AMHERST — The Nutribullet was busted. So 23-year-old Joey Newlin had two options: toss it out, or take it apart, figure out the problem, fix it and put it together again. He chose to fix it.

The motor, he found out, worked fine. Just the switch required repair.

“I hate planned obsolescence,” the Amherst resident said Sunday. “Fixing stuff is rad, and so is breaking it and taking it apart.”

On Sunday Newlin was participating in a Repair Public event at Bistro 63 in Amherst, part of a growing movement against what has become known as “planned” or “built-in” obsolescence, when manufacturers design products that will break down, eventually, in hopes the consumer will just buy another.

Ben Gagnon, a 40-year-old information technology professional from Holyoke, is the “general mangler” of Repair Public, a not-for-profit — or, more accurately, Gagnon says, an “out-of-Ben’s-pocket” — group hell-bent on not throwing stuff out.

He and a group of “fixers” have mended shirts and repaired turntables, removed the hard drive for an old computer, and have taken apart Newlin’s blender, among other things. This was Repair Public’s second event, with another planned between 1 and 5 p.m. on May 21 at Seymour the Pub in Greenfield.

He has a goal of hosting regular events across the Pioneer Valley.

“A lot of things can be fixed, but are constructed in a way to be either off-putting to a simple repair or difficult to the novice to open up,” Gagnon said.

“It just doesn’t occur to people to do, especially if they are, you know, bombarded with commercials that say ‘get rid of that tired old dishwasher and replace it with a brand new dishwasher!’” Gagnon said. “But if all it needs is a motor, you can fix that.”

Gagnon said he wants this phenomenon to have wide appeal. “Older demographics are very much accustomed to the idea of usability, of longevity, of being thrifty — and younger ones not so much yet,” he said.

Merry Kushing, of South Amherst, said she’s always been interested in repairing things rather than throwing them out. She and Gagnon go back, and on Sunday she brought her stabilizers for hiking and a package of replacement cleats. She also brought in an old Acer computer that she wanted to remove the hard drive from, so she could hopefully recycle the computer.

“I love the idea,” she said. “I just like the idea of fixing old things so they don’t end up in the dump.”

Gagnon said he gets particular gratification from fixing things. The event Sunday was donation-only, and he encouraged those who brought things in to hang around and learn all they could.

Another goal, he said, is to foster a sense of community.

“We don’t talk to our neighbors anymore,” Gagnon said. “This is sort of a territory where you leave political discussions behind and then you just buckle down with a community member … and they sit down and they exchange commonalities, and then they get stuff done.”

Similar repair events are scheduled throughout the region. On April 15, the Pittsfield Repair Cafe will host an event from 12:30 to 4 p.m. at St. Stephens Church in Pittsfield. The Northampton Department of Public Works is also planning events in June and September, though no dates are official.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.