Repair or replace?

Lawton_Out with the old, in with the new?  Not so fast.  The economy is putting a damper on consumers' disposable income, and many are thinking twice before purchasing a new television or pair of shoes.  There is good news, though - the renewed sense of frugality has provided a boost for repair and service shops as folks look to repair rather than replace items.  Lawton's skilled artisans are seeing their businesses grow, and several shops in Lawton's 600 Block of West Lee specializing in shoes, leather, and TVs are busy.

Many Americans accustomed to living in a disposable society now are taking items that they once would have thrown away to shops to be made good as new.  Ruben's Shoe Service opened almost 50 years ago, and Ruben's daughter says the shop never has been busier.  "In all the years I've helped my dad out - and my husband out - I've never seen this many boots and shoes piled up waiting for repair," said Michele Parra.

Ruben is retired, but his son-in-law Manuel takes old boots - that may seem beyond repair - and replaces soles, repairs leather, and gets himself dirty with a lot of polish.  "They can be almost like new, so people save $100 to $125 every time they fix their shoes or boots - that's big, big savings," he said.

He says he's used to repairing expensive boots that can cost $200 or more, but he's now working on less expensive shoes, too - Ruben's repairs are up 25%.  "Now that the economy has been bad, even the $50 - $60 shoes - that's good leather - they've been coming in to be repaired because it's a big savings on shoes," he said.

Sewing machine pedals are getting stepped on a lot more as folks turn to tailors and seamstresses, too.  Repairs for older appliances also have increased.  "We do a lot of work on projection screens - those are still good - and people can repair most of those a lot cheaper than you can buy a new TV," said Sonny Bybee with Fleming's TV Repair.

Bybee says a lot of people may want new TVs, but some are having to wait while times are tough.  He says they're there to help.  "We're just trying to the best job we can here to repair people's sets reasonably, so they can keep their old ones for a while," he said.

Parra says he has noticed that consumers have cut back on spending.  His sales of new items are down 40%, but the increase in repairs make up for lost income.  For now, the popular saying, "shop 'til you drop" has been replaced with "stitch 'til you fix."  Other repair and alteration shops in town say their business is up about 25%.