La Crosse’s Repair Cafe helping make old things new again

With technology advancing as fast as it is, it’s easy to just throw away electronics and appliances once they become old or have stopped working.

However, one group is proving sometimes it just takes the right ingredients for something to work like new again.

The Repair Cafe is what some say is one of La Crosse’s best-kept secrets.

The idea came about a year ago from the original Repair Cafe in Amsterdam.

At the Root Note Cafe in La Crosse, it’s the same routine just about every night: grind the coffee, steam the milk and pour a couple dozen popular beverages from the menu.


But on this night, the Root Note is serving up more than just the drinks to order.

“This is fun,” said Mike Baker, a radio technician. “I like fixing things.”

For a couple of hours once a month, locals pull up a seat and set up shop ready to fix just about anything.

“It’s a table lamp of some kind,” said Greg Siemens, an engineer.

“We’d had umbrella (and) folding cart table,” said Jim Cavanaugh of Onalaska.
There’s also bike repair, patch work and computer help.

Some of the people are by no means experts.

“Just good enough,” Cavanaugh laughed.

“I’m actually a radio electronics guy, but there’s bikes here,” said Baker.

“Maybe needs a repair, but so far we’re trying to make it break,” Siemens said while fixing a lamp.

Fixing things is a hobby they enjoy.

“A lot of people don’t know how to fix things the way they used to,” said Cavanaugh. “It’s just sharing knowledge.”

Organizers said the Repair Cafe gives them the perfect outlet.

“(It’s) getting them together in a social setting, but also to get things fixed and of course, the big idea is to recycle and reuse things instead of buying new,” said Stephanie Hanna of the EcoPark.

Some things may take longer to fix than others.

“Yeah, it seems like I’m having to be very aggressive,” Siemens said while trying to fix the lamp.

Sometimes it just takes patience and a little tinkering for the light bulb to go off.

“It works great now,” said Siemens.

Then with a sip of their favorite drink, it’s off to the next thing that needs repair.
“We’re going to try a coffee pot next,” said Siemens.

While bikes and lamps are popular things that need repair, the Repair Café has also fixed things, including radios and an old phonograph.

The Repair Cafe is a community effort with the Root Note Café, the Eco Park, Orange Computers and Kroner’s True Value Hardware store.

The next Repair Cafe is scheduled for 7 p.m. on June 12.

It’s free and open to anyone looking to get something fixed or to share your expertise.

For more information, head to the group’s Facebook page.