The Fixer

Frank Kaufman fixing mechanical items at the Repair Café in Toronto. At 77 years old, he’s all about teaching others how to repair, reuse and repurpose to save the planet.

Giving New Life

After retiring from the paid workforce, Frank Kaufman refuses to hang up his repair tools. Following 40 years of running his own computer repair business, Frank now volunteers as a fixer with the Repair Café Toronto.

It is a grassroots organization inspired by Amsterdam’s repair movement. Since 2013, Toronto has been hosting monthly gatherings in multiple locations, run entirely by volunteers. Fixers say they don’t have clients, but rather visitors. They help people learn how to repair any item they can carry in. Everything is free. 

Many fixers are tinkerers. They’re mostly retired tradespeople, hobbyists, and craftsmen. It’s all about training a new generation to rethink their choices. Fixers create a team of like-minded people who want to give back. Visitors save money and learn new skills. Both are helping save the planet by creating less waste.

With help from his wife, Annemarie, and grandson, Jace, Kaufman started a repair cafe near his home in Port Union. This hard-working handyman even offered his talents to the visually impaired at a special repair cafe for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Since its inception in the GTA, dozens of volunteers have fixed more than 10,000 items ranging from computers and small appliances to clothing and jewelry. Kaufman says he gets more than he gives.

A Tinkerer’s Legacy

Born in communist Hungary in 1947, Frank Kaufman dreamed of escaping to North America for a better life.  He was naturally curious and started taking things apart by the age of four and putting them back together by the ripe old age of six. 

By his teens, his mechanical skills were in demand. His saga started with simple repairs for family and friends. Word got out and a talented tinker was born.  

In the early 1960s, the Hungarian government switched electrical currents from 110 to 220 volts. This was Kaufman’s lightning moment. He figured out how to re-fit radios and other small appliances to work on the new system.  

Without any political connections, it was difficult to get noticed. Still, he earned a spot in the Mechanical Energy program on merit alone. Kaufman thrived, even repairing his professors’ appliances.

By 1968, he was working for a mechanical appliance repair company. He never gave up on his dream and bartered his skills with a member of the Communist party.  His prize was a travel visa.  It was Kaufman’s ticket out of Hungary. 

It was a long and risky journey, through Switzerland, France, and Germany. Wanting to avoid a U.S. draft, Kaufman escaped to Canada. He kept this a secret from his Hungarian family to protect them, knowing full well he would never return.  

Kaufman stayed with relatives after arriving in Toronto.  After three weeks, he went with his cousin to a car radio shop. The owner, also from Europe, hired him on the spot.

Frank was exploring his newfound freedom. He met his bride-to-be, Annemarie, at folk dancing lessons. They married in 1970 and launched their computer repair business, which kept them busy for 40 years. After selling it, Kaufman found a new happy place at the Toronto Repair Café.

Future Fixers Waiting to be Discovered

Meet the Team

Perry Lupyrypa

Producer: Giving New Life & A Tinkerer’s Legacy

Dianne Jayne Lumines

Producer: Giving New Life

Begimay Koigeldi

Producer: A Tinkerer’s Legacy

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