Repair Lair in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is far from your typical gear shop. Yes, it sells Arc'teryx jackets and Marmot sleeping bags, but none of them are new. Repair Lair is a fix-it and consignment outfit founded 2 1/2 years ago by Nancy Ford. The 58-year old, no-BS owner has held down a mixed bag of jobs in the outdoors over the years, including a wilderness therapy instructor in Idaho, an ice-core driller in Antarctica, a bike messenger in Boston. Her motto: Spend less on gear, more on beer.
“If I can’t fix it, I’ll tell you who can.”
On any given day at Repair Lair, the three on-floor sewing machines are whirring. Nancy Ford and her crew can fix just about anything. “We specialize in ‘chub rub and bike butt’ [essentially crotch repairs]. We do a ton of zipper repairs and patches, but we can also re-seam tape a Gore-Tex jacket or re-loft a down sleeping bag,” says Ford. She sees some crazy stuff. One guy recently brought in a tent with a decimated door. “He has night terrors," says Ford, “and he ripped the crap out of his new tent trying to get out. I've seen dogs do that kind of damage.” She basically rebuilt the door for about $50. Most of Ford’s business is local, but she also accepts mail-in repairs—and she gets them done and shipped back to the customer within about 10 days (way faster than any warranty department, which often takes several months).
We are “for cheap ass folks that want to be all green and shit.”
Ford believes in keeping good gear in circulation and out of the landfills. Her shop is jammed with gear brought in by her customers for resale. You might score a Patagonia fleece for $20 or a Big Agnes tent for $100. Last week someone walked away with a $240 Nuptse down jacket from The North Face for 40 bucks. Ford will also haggle over the price. "Our prices aren't firm," she says. "People research prices online and we do our best to match what they find. Our customers really like shopping at Repair Lair and some don't care about price, they just want to support a green business."
Repair Lair is indeed green. Ford repairs everything she can. She makes tote bags out of tents that can’t be salvaged. And she donates stuff that doesn't sell to homeless shelters.
“I want to develop more relationships with brands.”
Ford says she often gets stonewalled from gear companies (like MSR, Chaco, and Keen, to name a few) when she tries to get parts. “I guess it’s not part of their business model to support repairing their gear, but there are people out there like me doing this type of work. It’s good for the customer, it’s good for brand loyalty, it’s good for the environment, and there’s revenue to be had.”
To partner with Repair Lair to service your customers, to arrange a mail-in repair, or just to get fix-it advice, contact Ford at 612.729.9095 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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