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'Green' repair shop gives new life to throwaway items

  • Story Highlights
  • "Village Green Renewal" aims to fix most anything that is brought in
  • Shop owner says repairing items will result in less junk for landfills
  • Every once in a while, odd items -- like leather pigs -- are brought in
  • Items that arrive at the shop are often accompanied by a story
By Bob Crowley
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BROOKLINE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Seth Barrett really enjoys his work. "I love the variety of projects," he says. "I love a new puzzle every day."

Barrett repairs ordinary items like lamps and chairs, but occasionally an "interesting" project comes in.

Seth Barrett is surrounded by scores of projects in his shop, "Village Green Renewal."

He's at his workbench, chisel in hand, shaving bits of wood from one of several chairs brought into his repair shop by a customer. "She asked me to give them some attention and get them to stay together," Barrett says.

His shop, "Village Green Renewal," will fix almost anything that can fit in the front door, as long as it doesn't require any kind of special licensing or permits.

Barrett hopes that by getting people to repair items instead of replacing them with new ones, it will mean less trash heading for the landfill. "The aim of the business is really about bringing back a traditional approach to conservation," says Barrett, "because, clearly, the single best way to be green is to re-use the things that we already have." Video Watch Barrett in his shop »

His small shop is tucked into a corner of a building in Brookline, Massachusetts, on the outskirts of Boston. Old glass doorknobs, brass curtain rings and even a 1930s stove are some of the many functional and non-functional items that decorate the walls, cases and every corner.

From his workbench, Barrett has a clear view of the pedestrians who pass by.

"Everybody who walks past the window smiles, without fail," he says, and customers seem to be responding to this unique and somewhat old-fashioned business.

"I think people are really excited too about the prospect of being able to repair these things that have been sitting in their basement forever that were once really special to them, and are, now, almost a sore spot, because it's just getting dusty and getting no attention."

A customer enters.

"I found another chair for you," says Beth Harris, hoisting a black and white chair into the shop. She has an old house and if she's not bringing in a set of chairs that need mending, she might be in looking for an unusual hardware item that Barrett probably has.

"It's great to have a resource that's right in the neighborhood," Harris says.

Toasters, chairs and lamps are some of the things Barrett commonly fixes. But, occasionally, an odd item like a fancy purse or an old typewriter comes in.

"The more interesting the item is, the more time I'll spend on it off the clock," Barrett says. If he's really intrigued by the repair, he says, "I sit and keep playing with this thing because it's cool."

What would be the most unusual request? "The pigs win it, hands down," Barrett says, referring to a pair of leather pigs that needed some serious stitching up. He worked on them for many more hours than he actually billed because he enjoyed figuring out how to do it.

Besides, as Barrett points out, "How often do you see two giant leather pigs?"

For years, Barrett worked in large construction projects, renovating houses and building additions, but there was something about it that bothered him.

"I've always been made upset by all the bits of construction that go in the trash, and all the interesting stuff is overlooked because it takes time," he says. "Large-scale construction is fraught with tremendous waste and no time to attention and beauty."

That's what draws him to these small, simple projects -- not only is he providing a service, but he also is an integral part of the community he grew up in, his home being about 700 feet away from the shop.


Barrett feels a bond with many of his customers, because every item that comes in has a story that comes with it, and he's more than happy to hear that story.

He enjoys working with the small details and says his job is very peaceful. "I'm not trying to change the world. I'm just trying to bring something beautiful to my little corner of it."

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