Environmental News

What is a Repair Café?

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April 12, 2023

By Suzie Fromer

Repair Cafes are community events where volunteer repair coaches from your town help fix your beloved but broken items for free. The concept of a repair café was dreamed up by Martine Postma of Amsterdam in 2009. New Paltz resident John Wackman saw a NYT article about the repair cafes in the Netherlands and was so intrigued by them he flew to Amsterdam to see how they worked. The first New Paltz Repair Café was held in 2013, exactly 10 years ago, and with it was born Repair Café Hudson Valley (RCHV), a consortium of repair cafes now over 40 strong throughout the Hudson Valley, Catskills and Capital Region.

I first heard of a repair café back in 2019 when I saw a post on Facebook for volunteers to help at a newly founded Hastings Repair Café. The concept grabbed me, so I reached out from Irvington. Lindsey Taylor and Ariella Gastel were happy to have me join their café as a jewelry repair coach and told me that they hoped to one day grow into a Rivertowns Repair Café. Since then, we’ve held several busy cafes in Hastings, one in Dobbs, one in Irvington and now we are thrilled to be adding a ‘TarryHollow’ joint TT/SH café to our list of cafes.

In fact, I too fell so in love with the repair café concept I ended up taking a job as the coordinator for all the RCHV cafes. Now, I travel almost every Saturday to a different town to meet the many café organizers and repair coaches and I repair jewelry for so many grateful people. It truly is the best job in the world–everyone is so happy to be at a café. There is so much joy in the process of putting on an event that not only helps save things from the landfill but also brings communities together—something that has become crucially important as we figure out how to be together again post-pandemic. But we’re also doing something more—we’re creating a culture shift. We learning to not just throw things away and then get on amazon to buy new ones. Instead, we’re putting them aside until the next repair café or even looking up a video on Youtube to see if we can fix them ourselves. Together, we are transforming our throwaway society into one that prioritizes buying less and recycling, reusing, reducing and repairing more.

If you want to learn more about RCHV or repair cafes or get some jewelry fixed, please stop by the jewelry table at the TarryHollow Repair Café coming up on Saturday, April 15th, 10am – 2pm at the Neighborhood House in Tarrytown or free to email me at fromer@sustainhv.org or visit www.repaircafehv.org.

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