Duluth shopkeeper sews outdoor clothing repairs – Duluth News Tribune | WHs Answers

DULUTH — For Anders Hanson, nature is his office and his playground.

Anders Hanson

When he’s not out teaching people to be an interpretive naturalist, he’s fishing, biking, camping, or skiing. So what he wears is often paramount to what he does.

“I’m very attached to items that I use a lot because I like how they fit into my wardrobe/layering schemes. As a result, I wear things out a lot and have to fix them a lot,” said Hanson.

Enter Nils Anderson.

The owner of Duluth’s outdoor clothing and gear consignment store, Great Lakes Gear Exchange, offers zips on Nordic skate boots, panniers, ankle gaiters, jackets, tents and more.

Anderson has repaired a few fanny pack zippers and sewed shorts that Hanson tore in mountain bike accidents.

By patching and repairing these parts, Hanson saves time looking for a replacement and the sustainability impact is an obvious win, he said, adding: “Repair shops are few and far between these days and are a great asset to the outdoor community. “

Close-up of the sewing machine.

Nils Anderson threads a jacket and a new zipper through his sewing machine.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Late on a June morning, Anderson sat at his industrial sewing machine, fastening a jacket zipper before threading it under the needle.

“If you have gear or clothing designed to help you live and enjoy Minnesota, eventually something is going to go wrong,” he said.

In the back corner of the store lay spools of thread and hanging zippers in tones of lemon, lime, purple, blue, and black, and a plastic bin with tiny labeled drawers.

pens in a holder.

Nils Anderson’s sewing machine has pins and a sewing foot.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

In the past year, Anderson has done about 300 repairs, and they’re mostly for people’s personal use rather than the gear the store sells.

Anderson grew up in Two Harbors before pursuing studies at environmental learning centers. He then taught a naturalist training program at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minnesota; in Yosemite National Park; and the Minnesota Zoo.

Freed from seasonal jobs, he began working at Repair Lair in Minneapolis.

man standing in a shop.

Nils Anderson, owner of Great Lake Gear Exchange, speaks to a visitor in the company’s store area. His raised repair area can be seen in the background.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Navigating the sewing machine was a transition. Simple maneuvers are not intuitive, and the machine has a large engine and plenty of power.

Fabric can easily warp or accidentally fold over, he said.

Over time, Anderson learned how much pressure needed to be consistent for speed, and the most important ingredient: Steady wins the race.

Anderson began offering repairs on the Great Lakes Gear Exchange in August. A month later, he bought the store from founders Brooke Wetmore and Emily Richey.


New zippers hang next to Nils Anderson’s sewing machine.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

While it has tools and parts to repair snaps, buckles and straps, the most consistent demand is for zippers, making it the most sustainable focus area.

Before accepting a repair, he meets with people to review options, hear preferences, gauge depth of repair, color choices, and price points.

Major repairs cost more, but it’s often a five-minute fix that can cost around $15.

For things Anderson can’t fix, he refers people to other local people in the industry.

He also accepts donations, which he uses in other jobs.

“Instead of buying buckles and worrying about them paying off, I just reap things,” he said.

Anderson was referring to an old Granite Gear pack at the store, which he has used to repair a number of items. And this pack just lives on, he said.

“We all know how hard it is to find the right piece of clothing that fits perfectly and to develop a relationship with that piece of clothing over the years. Financial incentive aside, I think it’s a sentimental thing for a lot of people.”

Pawel Waszczuk smiles for a selfie.

Pavel Waszczuk

Contributed by Pawel Waszczuk

Pawel Waszczuk works in the Equipment Exchange store, approving and receiving shipments and helping customers. He said it was “incredibly special” to have repair services here.

“It’s nice to see the outdoor community working together to keep gear out of landfills, keep the wilderness clean and accessible, and educate each other about the great outdoors.”

spools of thread.

Sewing threads in different colors lie next to Nils Anderson’s sewing machine.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Nils Anderson.

Nils Anderson.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

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