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Free Fix-It Fair a welcome spot in Santa Rosa for folks with broken lamps, torn clothes and bikes needing repair

A woman with a wobbly lamp said the waste bin might be the best place for it, but she wanted appliance repairman Farid Asef to take a look just in case.

Not five minutes later, he had torn a bit of cloth from the lamp’s bottom and gotten his pliers inside its base to tighten the bolt that held the lamp upright.

Voila! No more falling over and breaking light bulbs.

Judging from the steady flow of people to Asef’s repair station Saturday at Sonoma County’s first free Fix-It Clinic and Reuse Fair, broken floors and table lamps are in abundance around the region.

One couple brought four lamps — three that had long been in storage and another had mostly just stayed turned on because it sometimes sparked when switched off.

“I tried to fix it and failed,” said Toni Nell, 65, the lamp’s owner.

But Asef, who owns a shop in downtown Santa Rosa dedicated to small appliance repair, had all but one or two items, for which he did not have parts with him, back in running order in no time.

That was the point of the event: to demonstrate the value and possibility of mending or restoring worn items rather than disposing of them as a means of preserving resources, saving money and easing the burden on landfill space.

It’s a culture all of those who volunteered Saturday, like Asef, embrace wholeheartedly and hope to expand upon in the future.

“The more we can build on this, the better,” said Dan Egan, one of two members from Community Bikes, a nonprofit bicycle collaborative, who spent the day testing and fixing bikes in need of maintenance or repair.

Egan had one 10-speed bicycle, brought in even before the four-hour fair officially opened, pretty well taken apart as he cleaned and tightened it piece by piece Saturday. His partner, Jeremey Fisher ran 20- or 30-point checks on a couple of smaller bikes, “just making sure everything is greased and running.”

At another station, Steffen Kuehr, founder and CEO of Santa Rosa-based manufacturer Tek Tailor, and a helper staffed sewing machines to repair clothing.

Kuehr’s contract sewing company creates upcycled products like duffel bags, belts and leashes from materials like decommissioned fire hose and used vinyl banners.

But Saturday, they made a happy camper out of Santa Rosa resident Carrie Lane, 56, who brought in a knit dress to have the neckline altered and another that needed the topstitching repaired. Lots of her clothes have gone unworn for years because of small repairs that are needed, she said.

Another woman, Beth Silverstein, 56, of Rohnert Park, had a housecoat shortened after she had tripped on it too many times while Timothy Osmer, 78, had some pants hemmed. The thick fabric was too hard to do by hand, he said.

But Osmer had also discovered the eWaste Sonoma drop-off sites for all things electronic where he left phones and other electronic items he’d carried in his truck for ages, not sure where to dispose of them safely.

“I’ve been doing this for always — not throwing things away, repurposing,” Osmer said. “To see it spreading … this way of life is so much more conscious.”

The outdoor event was held between Tek Tailor’s factory shop and its production building off Santa Rosa Avenue. There were also several other sponsors, including GreenLynx, a structural deconstruction, material reuse and woodworking company, which hosted tours of its facilities across the street. The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County’s mobile Museum on the Go was there for the kids, as well.

Sloane Pagal, who organized the Fix It event on behalf of Zero Waste Sonoma, already is soliciting volunteer fixers for the next event, possibly in late July. She said several of the clinic’s 140 attendees approached her Saturday, some of them with ideas for different fix-it stations.

“That’s the goal, is to try to grow our fixer network,” said Pagal, Zero Waste program manager.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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