Back in 1986, during the height of the wasteful decade, I started a small business called Irving Repair & Metalwork which took the old fashioned veiw that the old and broken need not be tossed, but instead refurbished and given a new life. In fact, my first slogan was "Don't 86 it, fix it!" This all came about because at the time I was working in a store where people were purchasing new, reproduction lighting, plumbing, and hardware for their older homes, and throwing away the originals. This was actually the norm! However, there were a few hold-outs who wanted to keep their cherrished antiques but needed someone to fix them. So I stepped up to the plate.
At the time, there were several places that polished brass or re-wired lamps, but none that would take on the real tricky restoration jobs that involved careful consideration of how best to cover one's repair tracks. The one place that did, O.P.Peterson's, had just gone out of business, leaving a huge void in the repair business. Irving Repair quickly built a strong following.
The earliest found photo of Irving Repair's first workshop, 60 square feet of space in a home on Irving Street, Portland, Maine. I am putting the finishing touches on a restored vintage picnic basket, my second paying customer.
This photo is from my second workshop, a whopping 400 square feet of space overlooking Main Street, South Portland, Maine. This is just before I split the busiess in two and created The Lamp Repair Shop. Note how much longer the pony tail has gotten!
It didn't take long for the business to become so busy that delivery time extended to several months. I also found myself needing more and more space for equipment and storage, so I kept moving into larger buildings, which I didn't mind. What I did not want to do was to have to hire someone to help. The responsibility was mine to care for client's property, and I didn't want the hassle of worrying about someone else causing damage. If I were the sole employee, the buck stopped with me and me alone.
So, in 1999 I spun off one part of the business, brass polishing, which was the most tedious and time consuming, and set it up as a separate business under the name of The Polishing Shop, but kept it under the same roof. I continued on with lighting restoration with the new, but appropriately named business called The Lamp Repair Shop.
This division of labor gave me much more tinkering time, which allowed me to focus more on the creation of one-of-a-kind lamps that had been getting a lot of attention in my studio and at trade shows. I took the best of what I was discovering as quality construction in antique lighting, and incorporating those techniques along with my own ideas into outstanding table and floor lamps. I continue this practice today.
The shop as it appears today, 2500 square feet of studio/workshop space brimming with antique and one-of-a-kind lighting in the heart of Knightville, South Portland. That's me to the right, greyer now, but still tinkering.
Today, The Lamp Repair Shop has surpassed the lofty goal of saving over 41,000 lamps. Not to mention all the hundreds of lamps created from salvaged parts. On top of all that, the recycling that I do in the shop has been so successful that on average, the amount of trash leaving the building on a monthly basis only fills a five-gallon plastic bucket! Combine all that with stratgically displayed lighting using LED bulbs, which allows me to operate my studio on less than $70.00 a month for electricity, and you have a very environmentally friendly business. It's been a challenge, but hey, what's a little hard work to help save the future for our kids.