By Sam Adelman O.D.
Many of us have electronic devices living in our closets, basements, and garages that we no longer use. Some are broken, others are just outdated. We know they don’t belong in the regular trash, but we’re not sure exactly what to do with them.
The Portland nonprofit, Free Geek, at 1731 SE 10th Ave., takes working electronics, refurbishes and resells them. They’ll take broken electronics and recycle them.
What about that monitor that won’t turn on, or that phone with the cracked screen – can it be fixed so we can keep using it? Does anybody even do that anymore?
Yes, they do, at Bridgetown Electronics, 5020 SE Division St.
In the spring of 2015, Kevin Heberlein and Adrian Avery-Johnson packed up their soldering irons, oscilloscopes and spare capacitors, and took the first road out of Madison, Wisconsin. They were searching for a place to open the electronics repair shop of their dreams.
Avery-Johnson had lots of experience managing computer networks and working at a computer help desk, but was searching for a place where he could have more freedom to interact with people with electronics problems. He hoped for a job with a more human way rather than the robotic fashion that the corporation he worked for seemed to prefer.
Heberlein wanted to put his electrical engineering background to work for the environment by keeping electronics working instead of them being thrown away and replaced.
Their journey ended and began in SE Portland where they opened Bridgetown Electronics Repair. Their motto at this shop is, “If it’s got electrons running through it, we’ll fix it.”
This has included a crockpot that needed a new power cable, a dishwasher with a broken computer control board, countless computer monitors, and a food dehydrator that someone found on the side of the road and brought in to be fixed.
True to Avery-Johnson’s desire to work with computers, they don’t charge for diagnosing what is wrong with a electronic device. They only accept payment when they have fixed the device.
Repairs at Bridgetown Electronics Repair are done with original manufacturer parts and come with a lifetime warranty.
Avery-Johnson explains the warranty: “We cover any failure of any parts we install. Of course, if we fix a tablet, and you drop it in the lake, that’s not under the warranty, but if it fails because a part we installed goes bad, we’ll fix that for free.”
On a typical afternoon at Bridgetown Electronics Repair, Avery-Johnson is at the front desk wearing a pink, Free Geek T-shirt and telling a customer that they’ll charge five dollars for each of the six broken capacitors in his computer monitor so it’ll be thirty dollars to get it working again.
Heberlein is in the back, his eyes fixed on the rhythmic peaks and troughs of their Tektronix oscilloscope as he diagnoses a problem with a circuit board.
Sometimes they are heroes. “The food dehydrator that someone found on the side of the road turned out to need a fifteen cent part, and it was all good-to-go for fifteen dollars,” Avery-Johnson reported.
Some things remain unfixable. They recently had to write a customer with a particularly difficult monitor: “We’re out of tricks to get this monitor functioning again. I suspect a power rail issue on the main logic board, but have not been able to pinpoint a specific component or series of components because schematics for the board are not available.
“If you’d like to pick it up, I have it reassembled, otherwise we can go ahead and recycle it to save you a trip.”
Bridgetown Electronics Repair is located at 5020 SE Division St. open Monday through Saturday from 10:01 am to 7:07 pm.