The Philly Fixers Guild is not only looking to repair everyday items; it hopes to fix up the local community in its efforts.
This group of “fixers” hosted its third Repair Fair at Memphis Street Academy in Port Richmond on Jan. 31. For four hours, 15 volunteer guild members offered training and assistance to anyone who brought in household items that needed repairing.
Started in early 2014 by Ben Davis and alumna Holly Logan, Philly Fixers Guild seeks to benefit community members by offering instruction and expertise on how to repair items rather than replace them. Based in Fishtown, the guild currently has 52 volunteer fixers who assist in the repair process.
“I originally envisioned difficulty finding fixers,” Davis said. “Sometimes it can be hard to get people engaged, especially on a volunteer basis. But the flood of people who have inquired about helping has been unexpected and very rewarding.”
While volunteers have varying backgrounds and skills, the guild looks to repair any items that may be brought in. From turntables and radios, to chairs and window fans, Repair Fairs offer the chance for the volunteers and community to work together to find a solution. For items that are too severely damaged or will take an extensive process in order to repair, fixers will recommend a course of action or a professional shop that can do the job.
The guild repairs everything that comes to its fairs and educates the community on how to become more self-sufficient. While these events remain the focus point, Davis and Logan hope to see the guild change into much more than that. The pair hopes to see more young engineers and mathematicians join the group as apprentices.
“We are hoping it evolves as time goes on,” Logan said. “We want [young people] to see this as a serious possibility, whether it is professionally or their personal environmental concerns. We also want to eventually start doing workshops with people, offering an individually focused effort to educate and help community members with one-on-one training.”
The Philly Fixers Guild isn’t the first to have this vision. Started just a few weeks before them, the Northwest Philadelphia Repair Café is part of an international chain of repair workshops that have the same focus as the guild: repair rather than replace. Members can create a franchise through the organization, choosing a location to hold the events. The Repair Café organization then offers marketing and services to help the new franchise succeed.
Davis said that even with the presence of another repair event in Philadelphia, Philly Fixers Guild still has something special to offer.
“We didn’t pursue an organization like Repair Café because we wanted our group to be unique to Philadelphia,” Davis said. “We try to relate personally to the members of the community, and want to build a brand that shows that. Not just with the logo and the website, but in our interactions and events.”
Even though the guild is trying to be a true Philadelphia experience, they have drawn heavily on the experiences of repair events from other cities. Davis said he reached out to other repair start-ups in areas from Boston to San Francisco, in order to gain advice from seasoned organizations that started like his own.
As the Philly Fixers Guild gains popularity, Davis said he hopes he can turn that around and offer advice and help to others in the Philadelphia area.
“We really would like to see other neighborhoods around Philadelphia get their own repair events,” Davis said. “A number of people have contacted us asking if they could start events up, and we are happy to provide advice and lessons.”
“We hope with our publicity and education efforts, we can keep spreading the word,” Logan added. “We want people to feel that they have ownership and control, and can make a difference in their communities.”
Andre Dienner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org