This South Minneapolis store on East Lake Street specializes in outdoor clothing and gear repair.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Inside the repair center in southern Minneapolis, owner Nancy Ford talks to a potential client in need of a coat repair.
During the conversation, the guy mentioned that he wanted to fix it so he could dry-clean the coat.
Ford then refers him to another business down the street that repairs and cleans coats, saying, “They’ll do those two things at the same time. So it’ll save you the trouble of coming to get it here and then afterwards. Take it there.”
Ford says it refers people to other stores “all the time,” even dozens of times a day. Sometimes it’s because she can’t do a repair but she knows someone else who can; Other times, Ford finds it most suitable to work on this problem.
“This is the way it should be,” Ford said. “I think the consumer should come first. We talk to people about buying things here all the time.”
The goal is to avoid buyer’s remorse, which can often result in items ending up in a landfill.
Ford Repair Lair opened eight years ago after spending about 15 years working in an outdoor retail store.
“It was frustrating having to sell really expensive camping gear to people… who might only take one trip,” Ford recalls.
Chris Thompson of Northeast Minneapolis came to Repair Lair on Wednesday afternoon after his coat hadn’t snapped.
“I called Midwest Mountaineering; they immediately said come here,” Thompson said.
Instead of replacing the entire zipper, Ford was able to immediately replace the zipper slider.
“Zippers are made of zinc; they wear out faster than zippers,” Ford explained to Thompson.
Ford said there aren’t many stores in the United States that have used repairs and sales under one roof.
“It’s a variety of different skills required to run a shop like this, and it’s incredibly labor intensive and there’s no way to scale it,” Ford said.
The store has an open floor plan; From the retail side, you can see employees repairing items on sewing machines.
“When I first opened its doors, I was the only one working and I needed to be able to see customers,” Ford said. “But also that was where the strength is. So all of these things kind of dictate the design of the store.”
But it also means that they spend a lot of time talking to customers about issues with their equipment or clothing.
“That’s why in most US outdoor equipment stores, you can’t go in and talk to the repair technicians. You either put it in an outdoor shop or mail it to the company. You don’t come for a walk talk to the repair technicians, again, not It’s cost-effective to operate this way but that’s what we do,” Ford said with a laugh. “It’s not the most attractive business model for most people, but we’ve been here for eight years and we’ve been part of the community and people appreciate that we’re here and that’s why we’re moving forward.”
3304 Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55406
Open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 11 am to 6 pm
Do you know a local business that we should highlight to the Beyond Business segment? Email Heidi Wigdahl at [email protected].
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