hen people ask me who my inspiration was when creating such an unusual business, my go-to answer is the great inventor Caractacus Potts, not exactly a household name on the who's-who list of invenors. Potts was a character who created the unusual car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, portraid by the great Dick Van Dyke in the disturbing movie of the same name. It was one of the first movies I had ever seen as a kid. When I first laid eyes on the ramshackled workshop of Caractacus Potts where he created an odd collection of magical, sometines useful stuff out of refuge laying about the property, I was hooked. I began the long journey to Makersville.
I realize Potts isn't an actual person and that there are dozens of other real inventors who create magnificent, sometimes magical things, but it is this man who I always think about when looking at whether something I find should be left or picked up, thrown away or reused.
This is me, back in 1986 in my first workshop. It's in a hallway of a house on Irving Street in Portland, Maine. Thus the original name of my business. To the left is my very first business card.
My first paying job as a self employed person was a pewter ashtray that needed a bulldog figurine re-soldered on. The customer was so impressed that someone could finally fix the family heirloom she told all her friends and family, and a business was born.
aving dabbled in many occupations that included small engine repair, auto mechanics, gold smithing, black smithing, carpentry, and customer service, I managed to collect a tremendous amount of knowledge about how things work, while along the way collecting quite a variety of tinkering tools that proved invaluable in starting my own specialized repair business. Plus, I spent some time working in a fantastic hardware store in Portland, Maine in the 1980s that had a very busy repair shop of its own, but was missing out on a lot of unique repair possibilities. I was offered the opportunity to do some freelance work and immediately realized that was how I wanted to spend my days.
ver the years the business became so popular my waiting list grew to be many weeks long! One aspect in particular was bogging me down, the polishing business. That was a complex, back breaking, and dirty part of the business, and also had the longest waiting list. So in 1999 I separated the polishing business and let it continue to grow as an independent enterprise while I continued on with the antique lighting restoration business under a new name: The Lamp Repair Shop. By this time I had already ventured into creating one-of-a-kind lamps using salvaged treasures. Local newspapers had writen articles about these unique creations, and soon the retail studio was on equal footing with the actual lamp repair business.
The Lamp Repiar Shop retail studio in 2014, after emerging from the Great Recession.
Irving Repair & Metalwork, South Portland, Maine 1994
o that's it. That's how it started, and this is where it's at. 47,000 plus repairs and hundreds of unique, one-of-a-kind lamps generated at The Lamp Repair Shop. It's been a great run, it will continue to evolve, and hopefully, there will be many more years of recycling lighting and imaginative creations to keep illuminating the marketplace.