Cathie Anderson: These business owners give your old stuff new life

Published: Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 - 10:40 am

Christmas typically brings bright, shiny new treasures, but over time, bright and shiny and new becomes worn, rickety and damaged.

Some of us can't bear to part with our old stuff. Others can't afford replacements. That's when we seek people such as George De Sousa, Jitendra Prasad, Lesley De Sousa, Thomas Allie or Mohamed Alaya. They're all in the business of restoring items that have seen better days.

Prasad and the De Sousas work on old pianos and wooden furniture. They were among the first people that Party Concierge owner Susan Crane called after her business went up in flames. An oak table and cabinet that had been in her family for three generations had survived the blaze.

Although her husband and co-owner, Lawrence Crane, was certain smoke and water had hopelessly damaged them, Susan Crane sent the table and cabinet to De Sousa's Furniture Restoration at 2435 West Capitol Ave. in West Sacramento. Prasad and his crew took out broken pieces and replaced them. They stripped the wood, then refinished it. Crane now shows off the gleaming results.

George De Sousa founded the business in 1968 but is now semi-retired. Prasad worked for him for about 35 years before buying the restoration business. De Sousa's daughter Lesley took ownership of the upholstery and interior design business. Their workshop is an industrial warehouse, chock-full of machinery, fabrics and vintage furniture.

Prasad recently restored a 1903 Knabe piano that had been painted to camouflage water damage. Prasad has made it showroom perfect, even replacing the stenciled logo and building a bench to accompany it.

De Sousa said his company boomed back when the country had more of a build-to-last mentality, but work is still steady. Prasad recently did touch-ups and repairs at the state Capitol, and Lesley De Sousa just got some chairs from Dignity Health to reupholster.

iRepair goes for broken

Sacramentans primarily in their 20s and 30s show up at Mohamed Alaya's front door when they are trying to extend the life of a cellphone or computer.

Customers come with shattered touch screens, dying batteries, viruses and other problems, and if the 26-year-old Alaya can fix them for a fraction of what it costs to buy a new gadget, they gamble on his skills.

Alaya calls his business iRepair, and it's located in a sliver of a bare-bones space at 911½ K St. that once housed a key-maker. The Laguna Creek High School graduate doesn't have any formal training, but he's worked for several cellphone repair shops around the region.

"As soon as I open the phone, I know what I'm doing," Alaya said. "It's basic logic. … My whole income, my whole life depends on my business."

He's operating on a month-to-month lease, hoping he'll earn enough to open a bigger store.

Old fixtures see the light

Thomas Allie has been buying, repairing and selling light fixtures at The Lighting Palace for three years, first in Old Folsom and now at the 57th Street Antique Row in east Sacramento.

"People bring you lamps, and their dog has chewed the cord, and they don't know how to rewire the lamp themselves, and they don't want to get electrocuted," Allie said. "We rewire and repair lamps. It's a little bit of a lost art form."

Allie told me that he acquired his repair and business skills during the 19 years he worked at Lamps Plus. He opened The Lighting Palace with 400 square feet and expanded into 2,000 square feet a year ago.

He takes some fixtures on consignment, but he buys most of them at flea markets and antique shows. His store, Suite G at 855 57th St., is packed with chandeliers, floor lamps and more.

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