Walking into Village Green Renewal on 6 Davis Avenue in Brookline Village is like stepping into your grandfather's (or perhaps even your great-grandfather's) workshop, with all the old tools mounted on the walls and the many boxes and drawers overflowing with antique door knobs, brass hardware, and skeleton keys that might unlock the door of an old Victorian house, like the kind you see all over Brookline.
But I am not standing in merely the workshop of a hobbyist handyman, and this is not exclusively a fix-it shop: it is also an artisans' collaborative space, meant for custom fabricators, woodworkers and builders of all kinds who believe in preserving the things we already love rather than discarding them in favor of new and often inferiorly-produced items. Even artists you might not expect to have ties to a fix-it shop are friends and patrons: for example, the local team of artists Alejandro and Moira Siña of Sina Lightworks—whose art installations were on display at the most recent First Light Winter Festival in Brookline.
Village Green Renewal recently joined forces with the Brookline institution, Phillips TV and Repair, who moved from their old space at 87 Harvard Street and now work out of the shop.
While I'm talking to the owner of Village Green Renewal, Seth Barrett, he's hammering on one of a pair of large and lavish antique wall sconces being rewired for a customer. Barrett is the quintessential New Englander: practical, resourceful, and a bit on the quiet side, but seeing him at work in his shop speaks volumes about his passion for restoration work.
His worktable faces the front window of the store, so that anyone walking past would see a man in a jaunty hat busy on a fix-it project. Likely this sight is what draws one man into the shop. "Please let me know if I can help you with anything," Barrett says, pausing in his work, but then leaving the man alone to look through all the bits and bobs Barrett has for sale, like a music lover would have once flipped through bins of vinyl, admiring the vintage recordings. Barrett buys and sells his period hardware from and to owners and contractors of mainly Victorian-era homes.
The shop recently drew the attention of the producers behind the father of all handyman shows: PBS's This Old House. Barrett is in talks with them to create what he calls "A cross between This Old House and Antiques Roadshow" (another popular PBS series.) If plans for the show move forward, Seth would be the star and Village Green Renewal would serve as the backdrop for the action.
A woman named Kobo enters the room from another workshop in back to ask Barrett a question. I find out she trained to do chair caning at The Caning Shoppe in Somerville and now works at Village Green Renewal 4 days a week. She is one of a small core staff Barrett employs. According to the store's brochure, Village Green Renewal is meant to be a "community hub for residents, craftspeople, and merchants who choose restoration over replacement."
Other services Barrett offers include furniture repair and refinishing, window screen repair, woodwork restoration, custom wood furniture, stained glass repair and fabrication, knife sharpening, and surprising to me, toy and doll repair. It's nice to know that in this culture of everything disposable, there is a place to go where even a broken doll can be mended to be good as new.
For more information about Village Green Renewal, visit their website greenbrookline.com or call 617-GO-GREEN
By Jennifer Campaniolo