28 January 2018

Kudos to Olson Vacuum in Madison - updated

"They don't make 'em like they used to."

That dictum is often applied to products like small appliances, and it was the mindset we had when our 35-year-old Hoover vacuum cleaner gave up the ghost.  We researched replacements, but this one had worked so well for so long that we agreed that if it could be repaired for less than $100 it would be worth it.

We took it in yesterday to a local company on Odana Road here in Madison.  The young fellow at the desk greeted us, asked a few questions, then put it on his counter and proceeded to take it apart.   That surprised me, since I was expecting to get an approximate cost and an estimated time for how long it would take to order replacement parts for a 35-year-old model.

He found the drive belt that had been totally worn out, had a replacement on hand which he inserted, cleaned a couple dirty parts, put it back together, and we were "good to go."

Elapsed time:  probably 15 minutes
Total cost (parts and labor):  less than $4.00

Awesome.  What a totally pleasant experience.  I'm delighted to use the power of this blog to give public "props" to a first-class business.  If you live within driving distance of Madison and need repairs (or a new vacuum), they are worth a visit.  Here is their website.

Addendum:  See also my comment and one by reader The Weaving One regarding Park Street Shoe Repair -

- at 609 S. Park St.  This is the go-to place for shoe and other leather repair.  They don't have a website.

And... while I'm at it.  On the same street (420 S. Park St.), Wayne's Barber Shop:

Also no cyberpresence - just excellent, inexpensive haircuts while you wait.  :-)

Addendum:  I'm very sorry to report that Park Street Shoe Repair is closing:
Eighty years after his father started the business, Fabian decided to hang up his cobbler’s tools after suffering a broken leg in October — and broken water pipes at the shop during the last cold stretch this winter...

The shop had been an institution in Madison and the old Greenbush neighborhood. Its closing not only means customers will have to find a new place to have their shoes repaired. It also means the collection of longtime friends and neighborhood residents that met in the shop — or outside on a bench along Park Street in warmer months — have to find a new meeting spot to swap stories... “We don’t really have a spot,” he said. “There really aren’t any old neighborhood places left ... where you can drop in.”..

Although Fabian said not as many people get their shoes fixed today, he was able to put all three of his children through college with the money he made repairing footwear.

“I’m very proud that I put three kids through college in this shack,” he said.

This story is "important" only to Dane County residents, but the event is I believe emblematic of a larger problem of the retirement of a cadre of skilled workmen, solo practitioners in their trade who are being replaced by faceless corporations or by a public attitude that products that become faulty should be thrown out and a new one purchased.

I don't know what I'll do the next time the leather upper of one of my hiking boots gets torn.  I certainly have enough $ in my savings to get a new pair of boots, but I would much rather have taken it in to Mr. Fabian to be restitched.

Best wishes to a retiring Madison legend.

Bottom photo credit:


  1. Good lord, how can they possibly make rent charging $4 for even 10 minutes?!?

    1. I've encountered other businesses like this - one guy fixed (and cleaned) my electric razor, and once I took my golf bag to a shoe repair shop and the guy spent probably half an hour trying to reattach a broken strap, finally hammering a rivet into a suitable spot. He charged me maybe $1 and said he had enjoyed the challenge. I think many craftsmen/shop people actually enjoy their work. And they know that a good reputation is better than random advertising.

    2. i enjoy fixing my own stuff. there is a certain satisfaction in a job well done and in having the 'whatever' working again.


  2. After ten years, the tread finally vanished on my favorite work boots, I took them to the shoe repair place down on Park and was sad to find out they could not re-sol them but he said the sole was plenty thick and he could carve treads into them. He put them on some kind of cutting wheel and handed them back five minutes later with treads that will probably last me for another 10 years. Didn't charge me anything and offered me a doughnut on my way out.

    1. Yup. That's the same place that fixed my golf bag. I've appended some info to the post.

  3. ..."haircuts while you wait." Uh, is there another way? Just kidding, I assume you mean without an appointment. ;o)

    1. I usually leave the hair and come back later. I mean, who wants to wait? And watch someone else's hair getting cut?

  4. We now live in a 'Throwaway Society' and Sally Lee wrote a book about it in 1990. Long ago one person might have used the same spoon, bowl, cup or fry pan for a lifetime. The advent of 'fast food' and cups, bowls, spoons and more are single use creating the great plastic waste heap and problem the world must solve. It's a shame. I just love to repair and renew the discards of others. It's a lost art and future generations will pay the cost of the outrageous plastics discarded and now devastating living creatures from micro size to birds and mammals. Very sad to see the loss of these businesses you featured and the short sighted, short usage of products that can last a lifetime, style be damned.

  5. Almost worth moving back to Wisconsin. However, it's 80 degrees here in SoCal today...


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