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In its Reno, Nev., service center, Patagonia operates the country’s largest outdoor gear-repair shop. During the 2017 fiscal year, it made 50,295 clothing repairs.
Josh Schill, the repairs department manager, oversees 69 full-time employees working at 48 industrial sewing machines on a mezzanine in the natural-light-filled warehouse. Many employees in the repair area grow plants, which thrive under the extra task lighting at their stations.
Fourteen employees are deployed to replace zippers, which accounted for 30,000 of last year’s repairs.
“Patagonia developed a machine to help remove old zippers faster,” Schill said. “Even so, some can take 15 to 20 minutes to remove.” An average repair, start to finish, is 90 minutes, he said.
Stores send up to 600 items a week. Others are mailed directly by customers. The company receives items that have been chewed by dogs (dogs have a thing about the plastic snaps at the back of ball caps, it turns out), faded by sunlight, burned by campfires and ripped by sharp rocks or sticks.
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