Getting Your Fix

Broken hearts? They’re hard to fix. But just about everything else can be repaired, revarnished, refinished, or reworked until your old favorite is as good as new. Read on for more than 20 solutions to your tricky fix-it problems.

Getting Your Fix


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Are you the kind of person who hates to throw anything out? Then you know how hard it can be to find someone willing to mend that tear, repair that engine, or refurbish that antique. That’s where we can help. We’ve found folks who can fix practically anything — from cuckoo clocks to Cessnas, dolls to door dings. So don’t toss your tattered treasures into the trash — pick up the phone instead


By Valerie Havas

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Dolls in Distress

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“Doctor” Noreen Morris of Tonner Doll Company

12-14 Hurley Ave., Kingston

845-339-9537 ext. 116,


If you broke your leg, you’d rush yourself to the emergency room, right? So it’s only natural that when a cherished doll breaks a limb, damages an eye, or starts going bald, she’s rushed to the hospital too. Noreen Morris, the chief of staff at the new, state-of-the-art medical facility at the Tonner Doll Company Store, has restored and repaired countless doll patients over the years.


“I started in the late ’70s by fixing up the old dolls I found at yard sales,” she remembers. Ironically, she never played with dolls as a child. “With two brothers and a neighborhood full of boys, I was usually climbing trees, fishing, playing cowboys and indians — not playing with dolls.” It wasn’t until her two daughters were born that she began appreciating, and collecting, dolls. After operating her own doll shop and doll hospital for awhile, she joined the Tonner Doll Company as their resident doll doctor.


So what’s a typical day like for a doll doctor? “Most commonly, we see orthopedic issues, where the limbs need to be reattached,” she says. While something relatively simple like a new wig can be accomplished on an outpatient basis, more complicated procedures may require an overnight stay.


Morris’ most memorable repair job involved “Aunt Ada,” a beautiful German-made bisque head doll from the late 1800s/early 1900s. Restoring Ada called for “the works,” Morris says: the composition fingers were rebuilt and repainted, the doll restrung, the wig cleaned and restyled. The client — a descendant of the doll’s original owner — was ecstatic.


But Morris’ most unforgettable customer was an eight-year-old girl who was about to have corrective eye surgery. Coincidentally, her doll had ill-set, crossed eyes. “She wanted me to fix her dolly’s eyes while she was having hers fixed,” Morris smiles.

Morris’ work seems more like a calling than a job. “I really love what I do,” she enthuses. “When the owners come in and see their beloved dolls repaired and restored, they often gasp and cry,” she observes. “And I cry, too!”


Prices, which vary according to the complexity of the job, begin at about $25 (to have a doll completely restrung).


Staying In Tune

Jon Stein Piano Services

Goshen, 845-294-3655

Unlike many piano technicians, Stein tunes strictly by ear, assisted only by a traditional tuning fork set to the first note, A 440. “I don’t want to become dependent on a machine,” he explains, comparing his ears to muscles that need to be exercised regularly to avoid atrophy. He also believes that “Machines tend to make the job go quicker, and it takes something away from the tuning.” Regardless of a piano’s monetary value, Stein never rushes through a job, spending at least an hour on each tuning. “Not every piano can sound like a Steinway,” he notes, “but I treat every piano as if it’s the most important thing my customer owns.”


Stein, whose training included an eight-month course in tuning at the Manhattan School of Music and a stint at the famed piano company Steinway & Sons, stresses that tuning alone is not enough to keep pianos in good working order: they also should be regulated every 10 to 20 years to ensure that they sound just like they did when they left the factory. Keys may need to be adjusted, for example, and hammers checked for wear and tear. “Everything is set to the manufacturer’s specifications,” he declares.


After working on a piano, Stein typically stays for one final test: he plays a song or two. “My ultimate goal,” he says, “is making sure the piano sounds good not only to me, but to the people who’ve hired me.”


In the Hudson Valley, Stein serves customers in Rockland and Orange Counties. His prices, he says, “are competitive — more than some, and less than others.”


Booking It

Jeffrey M. Rigby Library and Archive Conservation

167 Rte. 25, Hudson


Though some literature is surely timeless, its earthly housing — bindings, covers, spines, paper and the like — is not. Sometimes, books need a little TLC, if not major surgery, to withstand the ravages of time. That’s where Jeffrey Rigby comes in, armed with a host of conservation treatments for books made of leather, paper, cloth, and vellum. In addition to individuals seeking to preserve family Bibles and other precious heirlooms, his satisfied clients include collectors, dealers, libraries, universities, and museums. “I’m a conservation bookbinder,” he declares, “dedicated to preservation techniques which promote the longevity of the objects I’m called to work on.”


Rigby stresses that he doesn’t believe in trying to imitate period bindings without first trying to preserve the books’ intellectual content. To illustrate his philosophy, he points to the work he did on a seriously damaged copy of Della Trasportatione dell’Obelisco Vaticano,a 1590 book with beautiful engravings detailing what some consider to be the most impressive engineering feat of the 16th century — the relocation of an Egyptian obelisk to St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. After first documenting the book’s deplorable condition, Rigby went through a meticulous, multistep restoration process: taking the book apart; removing surface grime with ground-up erasers; bathing the pages in hot, filtered water as well as in a solution of magnesium bicarbonate; using Japanese rice paper and rice starch paste to repair damaged pages; sewing in new, historically accurate end sheets; and covering the spine in African goatskin. As a final touch, he built a specially designed box to house both the newly bound book and the fragments of the original binding. This particular job cost thousands of dollars and took Rigby a couple months to complete.


So what can the average book lover do to avoid unnecessary repairs? “The most important thing you can do is to protect your books from excessive light and excessive swings in temperature and humidity,” counsels Rigby. “You certainly don’t want to store them in your attic or basement.”


Artful Repairs

Paul Gould Hudson Valley Gallery

246 Hudson St., Cornwall-on-Hudson

845-534-5278, or

What can you do with a painting so badly damaged that it looks more like a puzzle than a work of art? You could declare it a total loss, of course. Or you could bring it to artist and art restorer Paul Gould, who not long ago rescued a work by Hudson River School painter Jervis McEntee. “It was so badly fractured that the piece had to be attached to a second canvas in order to restore it,” Gould remembers. “We used a liquefied wax adhesive as a binder between the old and new canvases.” All the pieces were there, except for a piece of sky the size of a silver dollar, which he replaced by “borrowing” a piece of canvas from the side of the stretcher bar. The painting, a family heirloom that had been stored in a basement, had endured two floods and been stepped on by professional movers. “When you look at the painting now, you wouldn’t have a clue as to what it had gone through,” Gould asserts. Even the frame was restored, by Paul’s brother William, who works out of Bethlehem Gallery in nearby Salisbury Mills. The restored painting looks so good, in fact, that Gould is currently in the process of helping the owner to place the work in a major museum. Prices for Gould’s restoration work vary, from about $100 for cleaning and revarnishing a small painting, up to thousands of dollars for more major repairs. Most jobs, he says, are in the $500 – $750 range.


Describing his philosophy, Gould says, “I respect all artists’ work, whether it is by an amateur artist or a more celebrated one like McEntee. My goal with every restoration is to keep as much of an original painting as possible.”


Wheely, Wheely Good

Overlook Mountain Bikes

93 Tinker St., Woodstock


“Being in Woodstock, we have a solid cycling community,” says owner Billy Denter, who counts professional athletes, “over-the-top biking enthusiasts,” weekenders, and people who cycle to work each day among his customers. Although he mainly repairs relatively high-end bikes, he’s happy to help anyone who walks in the door. “We want to nurture that interest in cycling,” he declares. The hourly repair rate is $34.99, with a standard tune-up costing $40 and a complete overhaul $152.



Two stores:

1581 Rte. 376, Wappingers Falls

845-463-7433 692 Rte. 6, Mahopac 845-621-2800,

“We repair all styles of bikes,” declares General Manager Doug Cory. “From 30-year-old bikes that have been sitting in Mom’s basement, to inexpensive Wal-Mart style bikes, all the way to today’s top-end bikes, which can cost over $8,000.” They’re also happy to repair tricycles, tandems, bike trailers, unicycles, baby strollers, even wheelchairs. The most common repair is getting a flat fixed, which will set you back about $15 for tube and labor. A basic tune-up costs $49.99, and a deluxe tune-up (which includes cleaning and degreasing the entire bike) costs $69.99. The more challenging repairs, says Cory, involve older bikes, which may have out-of-date, hard-to-find parts. “Sometimes a little customization is required to make a more current part work correctly and reliably with the older stuff,” he explains.


Furniture Fix-Ups

Rosini Antique Restorers

6126 Rte. 22, Millerton


Need to refinish a Windsor armchair, restore the golden gleam of a mirror frame, or repair an antique sewing cabinet? This is your place. “We do a lot of re-gluing of chairs, and a lot of veneer work,” says owner Scott Doyle. Other services include French polishing, faux finishes, hardware and metal polishing, and the fabrication of missing parts. Sometimes, he says, existing finishes can be reconditioned rather than replaced altogether. “In most cases, reconditioning looks better than refinishing,” he says, “because the original patina and color are preserved.” The price for each job varies, depending on such variables as the materials and techniques to be used. Doyle does not give estimates over the phone, but is willing to swing by your house to give a free quote. Repairs are generally completed within two to three weeks.


Fabric Face-lift

Ronnee Barnett Textile Restoration

Cherry Hill Rd., Accord


From old quilts and needlepoint upholstery to 16th-century tapestries and handmade rugs, Ronnee Barnett — whose best-known work was the restoration of Mickey Mantle’s last uniform — can bring back the beauty of just about any kind of textile. The restorer extraordinaire, who has 29 years experience, says that the process is different for each project. “For some jobs, I reintegrate all parts of the textile that are lost in the same manner that it was done originally,” says Barnett, who is currently restoring a circa-1450 Franco-Flemish tapestry at the Metropolitian Museum of Art, where she works one day a week. Other times, if the customer wants to mount a tapestry for exhibition and doesn’t want it rewoven, Barnett will use a different procedure: “I will put fabric behind holes to maintain the decorative aspect.” Barnett’s going rate is $80 per hour; because each project is so different, a job could take anywhere from one or two to hundreds of hours.


Glowing Stained Glass

Wilmark Studios

177 S. Main St., Pearl River


“The lifespan of a stained glass window is long, but not limitless,” says Mark Liebowitz, owner of Wilmark Studios. After about a hundred years or so, he says, the window’s leading may need to be replaced. Repairs may be needed before then, of course, if the window has been subjected to vandalism, an accident, or an act of nature, or if the window is located in a structurally unsound building. Sometimes, the problem is with the original workmanship: “A stained glass window is a handmade object,” he observes, “and you never know how well the craftsperson knew their job. Sometimes mistakes were made, and they need to be fixed.” Liebowitz’s clients include churches, synagogues, and owners of private homes. One of his favorite jobs involved restoring windows at a chapel for the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in Garrison. Some of the German-made, hand-painted windows had missing pieces, which he replaced, a process that involved repainting draperies and detailed borders on new glass. “It’s interesting work,” he declares. “You have to analyze how the original work was done, and then recreate it.” Prices range from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of the task.


Sew Good

Sew and Vac

Two locations:

181 S. Plank Rd. (Rte. 52), Newburgh


Poughkeepsie Plaza, Rte. 9, Poughkeepsie


So you’ve inherited your great-grandmother’s old Singer sewing machine, and are itching to get it back into working order. Or your brand-new vacuum has broken yet another belt. Who to call? Your best bet may be Sue and Bob Frisenda, co-owners of two Sew and Vac stores. They repair all makes and models of vacuums and sewing machines — even, in the case of sewing machines, antique models. “When it comes to sewing machines, the age of the machine doesn’t matter as a rule,” declares Sue, who notes that the couple has a basement full of old machines that can be cannibalized for parts when necessary. Why would someone want to repair an old sewing machine, which usually can’t do as much as a newer model? “People like the idea of using something from a different era,” she surmises. Repairs are $79.95.


Material Matters




Cat claws, cigarette burns, ink stains — can anyone fix the damage they can do to your clothing, furniture, and other treasured possessions? Gary Fotopoulos, the president of Materi-All, can. “I do all types of leather, vinyl, plastic, and velour repair,” he says. He’s a pro at re-dying and custom coloring, but won’t handle restitching jobs. “I’m the guy you call before reupholstering,” he explains. Materi-All is a mobile business, which means they’ll come right to your car, boat, office, or home. In the case of clothing, you also have the option of dropping off the damaged piece at one of the local dry cleaners with whom Fotopoulos has a working relationship. Prices range from about $75 to fix a tear in a leather jacket to about $200 to repair a sofa. While most of their customers are within Putnam County, they’re happy to travel to Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, and Rockland counties as well.


Wonderful Windshields

Excel Auto Glass

1789 Rte. 9W, Lake Katrine


Cracked windshield? Excel owner Scott Owens warns that many insurance companies will steer you to national chains more interested in volume than in quality — or safety. “If a windshield is installed incorrectly, it may not withstand the stress of an accident,” he asserts. “Most people think that if it doesn’t leak, it’s okay. That doesn’t mean it’s safe.” Windshields do much more than keep out the rain and bugs, he stresses: They also save lives by keeping the roof from collapsing in the event of an accident, and by acting as a backboard for airbags. That’s why, he says, Excel takes care to install every windshield according to factory specifications.


Excel is equally adept at replacing high-tech windows (with features like solar coatings and de-icing mechanisms) and the hand-cut glass used in vintage automobiles. “The oldest we’ve worked on so far was a 1927 La Salle,” he notes. His company also repairs sunroofs and moon roofs. Owens, a National Glass Association certified master technician and a former instructor at the Ford Glass School in Dearborn, Michigan, says that on average, it takes his company between one and two and a half hours to replace a windshield. Prices vary, according to the complexity of the job and the type of glass needed, and range from $60 for windshield chip repairs to $300 – $350 for a full windshield replacement.


Dents and Dings

Dents Unbent



Where can you turn when a runaway shopping cart or sudden hail storm targets your car? Not long ago, your only option was an auto body repair shop, which would have used body filler and paint to camouflage the damage — charging you a small fortune in the process. Now, there’s a less costly option: so-called paintless dent repair, a technique offered by Mike and Tania Costello of Dents Unbent. The procedure, which Tania says originated on the West Coast about 20 years ago, can remove minor dents and dings without damaging the car’s original paint job. The technicians work behind the damaged car panel, she explains, “massaging” the dent away by strategically applying pressure and leverage. The process is definitely cheaper, says Tania, who notes that Dents Unbent charges about $95 to fix a quarter-sized door ding, as opposed to $300-$400 at a body shop. Last July’s severe hail storm, which brought golf ball-sized hail to parts of Ulster County, drummed up lots of business, she notes. But even when the weather’s fine, there’s always a steady stream of dented and dinged vehicles. “We’ve fixed cars worth $100,000 and ones worth $5,000,” says Tania, “everything from Subarus and Hyundais to DeLoreans and Bentleys.”


Time Machines

Thompson’s Clock Shop

43 Oakes Rd., Highland


Everyone knows that time flies — except, of course, when your clock stops ticking. If the timepiece in question is special — say, a Black Forest cuckoo clock, or an American shelf clock — then you may want to call Ed Thompson, who has been repairing and restoring balky tickers since 1996. Thompson’s first repair job was on an antique picked up at a yard sale. Unable to get it working, Thompson enrolled in a basic clock-repair course taught by the Wappingers school district’s adult education program. Hooked, Thompson took some advanced classes as well, and was soon fixing other people’s clocks.


His most rewarding job to date? Volunteering to help restore the tower clock at Haviland Middle School in Hyde Park. Working with friends from the local chapter of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (, Thompson helped restore the clock to its former glory. “We did all the work, including repainting the dial, and it looked beautiful,” he recalls. More recently, Thomas was thrilled to have the opportunity to repair a 19th-century marble mantle clock originally owned by local brewer and philanthropist Matthew Vassar.


Simple repair jobs start at about $65, although more complicated ones can cost hundreds more. While Thompson does most of the work himself — cutting and shaping missing metal pieces, for example — he turns to other pros for specialized tasks like carving wood, or replacing the bone hands of a cuckoo clock. He does not do watch repairs, and only occasionally fixes modern clocks, which tend to cost more to repair than to replace.

For Thompson, working with antiques is obviously a labor of love. “My own house is full of old clocks,” he admits. “I wind them all, and they all work.”


For watches:

Frank & Company Fine Jewelers

133 Partition St., Saugerties


For watch repair, try Frank & Company Fine Jewelers, where Frank Cruz has been repairing watches since 1963. From Timex to Rolex to antique Longines and pocket watches, Cruz can fix any type of watch. And if the parts are no longer available, he will make the part himself. Jobs usually take about 10 to 14 days, and all work is done in the store. Estimates are free.


Jet Setting

Cessna Citation Service Center

Stewart International Airport, Newburgh


If you’re a true jet setter — the kind who owns your own private jet — then you probably already know about the Cessna Citation Service Center at Stewart Airport, one of only 10 such repair shops in the world (nine are in the U.S. and the 10th is in Paris, France). “We handle 135 aircraft on average per month,” says Jeffrey Rich, the former general manager of the New York center. “Our facility can accommodate 28 jets simultaneously, with as many as 20 actually being worked on at any given time.” The center offers complete maintenance and inspection services for the Citation jet, and they’ll even arrange for rental cars, hotel rooms, and catering for the fliers. Rich describes a typical emergency visit: “Just last night, an aircraft showed up on our ramp at 2 a.m. with a problem. They were on their way to Europe, and needed immediate support or they could not proceed. We jumped right on their aircraft and resolved a rather difficult issue that required the coordination of several parties, all in the middle of the night. We got them fixed and back on their way in a few hours.”


Computer Doctors

Hudson Valley PC.Com

Wappingers Falls


It’s every computer user’s nightmare: Suddenly, your machine crashes, and a huge chunk of your life — treasured photos, ongoing projects, vitally important e-mail — has disappeared into thin air. “I’ve been there,” admits Karen Troncoso, co-owner of Hudson Valley PC. “It’s the worst.” Happily, she and her partner, Javier Galdames, can usually help PC users recover their lost files — and, more importantly, their peace of mind. They’re also pros at removing spyware, and undoing the havoc caused by those pesky computer viruses. Their minimum charge for providing an on-site service is $39 ($49 for customers outside of their core region). Estimates are free (except for travel fees, if any). For a full range of prices, see their web site.


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