Repair Café returns to Prince Albert at new location

A volunteer helps two boys fix their bikes at the Prince Albert Repair Café prior to its closure in 2020. The Repair Café will reopen on Saturday, March 4, but at a new location. -- Submitted photo.

Local residents looking to repair a household item will have a new helping hand when the Prince Albert Repair Café returns on Saturday.

The Repair Café ceased operations when COVID hit in 2020, and hasn’t been held since. Les Dickson is part of the five-person team working to bring the Repair Café back. He’s excited to see the event return.

“It’s great. There’s been lots of enthusiasm from people who heard about the fact that we’re reopening,” Dickson said.

“It’s keeping stuff out of the dump. It’s helping things be affordable for people, because if you can put a new end on a chord, that’s a lot cheaper than buying a new coffeemaker.”

Before it shut down due to COVID, the Repair Café drew up to 10 people a day who were looking for help repairing broken household items. The Café also partnered with local community groups and organizations, like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Prince Albert Police Service, who helped the Café fix stolen bicycles that hadn’t been claimed, and handed them out to children from low-income families.

Dickson said he enjoyed the camaraderie the Repair Café created as much as he enjoyed fixing things. That’s one of the big reasons he decided to help bring it back.

“I’ve always enjoyed tinkering with things and fixing things, and sometimes that was out of necessity,” he explained. “We couldn’t afford to fix the dryer. I figured out how to replace the heating elements in it and all that kind of stuff. That community, the friendship, that’s a big part for me too.”

Before COVID, Repair Café volunteers setup shop in the Margo Fournier Centre. On Saturday they’ll be in a new location—the Prince Albert Science Centre space inside Gateway Mall.

Dickson said they want to make the Café more accessible and give them more exposure.

“There’s a lot of foot traffic in the mall, and it’s going to be more visible, what we do,” he explained. “It’s been difficult to promote the activity. We did it word of mouth and Facebook and a bit of media stuff.”

Science Centre activities will take precedence over the Repair Café, but if the space is free, Dickson said they’ll operate the first Saturday of every month.

They’ve asked members of the public to avoid wandering through just to have a look, since there will be tools lying around, but anyone can bring a household item that needs repair. There is no fee, but donations are accepted, and visitors will have to sign a waiver saying they understand volunteers will do their best to fix the item, but may not always be able to do so. Items they will try to repair include small appliances, furniture, clothing, toys, etc.

Aside from reducing waste, Dickson said they also want to help Prince Albert residents learn some basic repair skills. Residents who need an item fixed will work side-by-side with a volunteer fixer. Dickson said they’re also hoping to get Prince Albert youth interested in the Repair Café, so older volunteers can pass on their knowledge.

“If they’ve got some kind of household item that they want us to take a look at, we’ll try,” Dickson said. “Part of what we want to do is teach some repair skills to people, not just repair it for them, and get them involved in the repair process, if possible.”

The Repair Café has received a $500 grant from the City of Prince Albert to replace tools that were stolen during COVID. The Repair Café stored their repair shed in the City Yards on Sixth Avenue, but someone broke inside and stole every item.

Dickson said the $500 grant will help them get back on their feet quickly.

There are more than 2,500 Repair Cafes around the world. Many of them are promoting “Right to Repair” legislation in Europe and the United States, and that’s something Dickson said the Prince Albert café hopes to support.

“We’ve had objects come in that take very specialized tools to open up and repair,” Dickson explained. “Trying to get that legislation changed so manufacturers will have to make things easier to repair, that’s a big focus.”

The first Repair Café will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Prince Albert Science Centre in Gateway Mall.