Repair shop on wheels serves customers on location
Fibrenew repairs, restores, or replaces leather, vinyl, plastic
Bob Lawson attended the second annual Great Minnesota Aviation Gathering at Anoka County Blaine Airport as a visitor. This year he was there as a vendor.
"Last year I just walked around to see who was there and who the vendors were," said Lawson. "What I realized was, there was nobody there who does the kind of work on the interior of airplanes that I do. So this year, I came as a vendor."
Lawson is the owner of a Fibrenew franchise.
"I do leather, vinyl and plastic repair, restoration, and replacement," said Lawson. "Fibrenew works in a number of industries, aviation, automobile, boating, home, and commercial.
"We dye a lot of material. When color starts coming off an airplane seat, we can re-dye it the original color to make it look new again."
One common cause of damage to aircraft seat covers nowadays is bling on the backside of blue jeans.
"When people move around on the seat, it's like sandpaper on the covering," said Lawson "Once you break down the protective cover or coating on vinyl and leather, the whole thing deteriorates. Small holes become big holes fast."
Fibrenew also has a process to repair broken plastic, whether it be panels or seat covers. At times, due to the age of the item, replacement parts are no longer available so restoration is the answer.
"A lot of our plastic work comes from RV dealers or auto body shops," said Lawson. "In some cases, new parts aren't available so a repair necessary, which is okay because it is usually more economical to repair a piece than to buy new.
"There may be a car with cracked vinyl. We'll take that part of the seat off, re-construct it, and sew in a new vinyl piece. We make it look nice again. We re-dye the whole seat sometimes when they're looking pretty worn."
Cost is a factor when considering repair, restoration, or replacement.
"I give customers options," said Lawson. "One is to repair the damage. Another is replacement. I typically go to the dealership and ask the cost of a new seat cover (or other item). Now I can tell the customer, I can repair the damage, or sew in a new one, or here's the cost of a new cover from the dealer."
One of the most convenient aspects of hiring Fibrenew is that the service is primarily mobile.
"Eighty percent of my work is done at the customer's site," said Lawson. "Twenty percent, when we're sewing or I have bigger things to dye, I take to the shop in New Brighton."
Being the owner of a franchise, Lawson has the advantage of corporate research and development, ongoing training, and quality control to meet industry standards.
"For the aviation world, Fibrenew products meet FAA burn testing standards," said Lawson. "You can't add anything flammable to an aircraft. All the products we use have gone through testing."
Another aspect of quality is matching colors.
"We dye the repair to match the color of the item," said Lawson. "We don't have 10 spray cans and I pick the closest one. My job is to hand mix the colors to match so somebody's eye doesn't pick out what they think is a stain or ask why that spot is a different color. It's the whole process of the repair and the color to make it look right.
Repairing and restoring material things cherished by owners has a reward beyond the fee for services. In a world of throw away and disposable items, Lawson feels what he does assists owners in keeping and respecting their possessions.
"We give things longer life," said Lawson. "It's kind of fun to do that."
For contact information, see Fibrenew in the Professional Services Directory on page 23 of this issue.