Fix It Again Sam…or should that be Bill?
Fix It Again Sam is a catchy name for this repair store fixture at 911 Millwood Rd. in the end unit of the plaza between Randolph and Sutherland. The two Bills who started the store thought it might be a name people would remember. And we do.
The two Bills had worked at a car radio shop in Richmond Hill but decided to see if a general fix-it business would work. Their original plan was to deliver flyers to homes, pick up the broken items, and return them to the owners – doing the necessary work in their (Bill’s) homes. That worked so well that in 1980, the two Bills took a chance on setting up a bricks and mortar business. Initially, all they had in the empty store was their two toolboxes.
A lot of the early business was in after-market car radio installation. No more! At this time of year, the shop is filled with snow blowers, as well as humidifiers and heaters. In the summer lawnmowers and dehumidifiers take up the space. And there are always lamps, vacuums and anything else electrical that people bring in.
There was the young man who rushed into the store carrying a lamp, with the urgent request that the shop fix it immediately. His parents were coming home that night, and the working lamp had to be in place. Bill got it done. More recently, there was the request to fix a music box with strong sentimental value. There hadn’t been much call for music box repairs before, but knowing the story behind it, Bill got to work and had it in melodious working order before too long. Small electric appliances of a more recent vintage are often not worth fixing, he notes, because many of the parts are plastic, and a replacement for the whole item is often cheaper than the repair. But there are still the appliances that are worth repairing. And occasionally there is the odd lamp that’s just in need of a new bulb.
Since the mid-’90s there has been only one Bill, Bill Ashley, who has been plying his trade for decades, so long in fact, that he’s now seeing his third generation of customers. “People come in with small children in tow, and I remember when they were the children being brought by their parents,” he says. “And many of the items being brought in to be fixed are repeats, too – a lawnmower or snow blower reappearing every three or four years for an overhaul.”
Fit It Again Sam is certainly a thriving business. Bill works 50-plus hour weeks, so he needs help, and has worked with a steady stream of assistants over the years. Sarah, whom he recruited from a Kijiji ad despite her having a background in marketing, has been with Bill three years now. Felicia has been learning the repair trade for six months.
Bill is 67 now, but still loves to work and shows no signs of wanting to give up the tools of the trade. “I’ll do this as long as I am healthy,” he says.
And there now really is a Sam – a female tabby who lives in the store. A friend brought her in to Bill as a kitten nine years ago.