Jan. 15 2013 11:28 PM

Where to go in San Diego to get your vintage goods repaired

Maddalena Sciacca
Photo by Kelly Davis

Living in Boston for three years, I learned about "spring coats"—those that are perfect for temperatures in the 50s and 60s. In other words, Boston's spring coats are San Diego's winter coats. I amassed a small collection, my favorite being a vintage double-breasted brown tweed with three-quarter sleeves. But the fit was too big. 

A few years ago, I was shopping at my favorite vintage-clothing store, Frock You in Hillcrest, and noticed a business card on the counter. "Maddalena Sciacca: Custom tailoring and fine alterations." Kristin Tinderholt, Frock You's co-owner, raved to me about Sciacca's talent for altering vintage clothes. Long story short, my coat fits perfectly, and Sciacca, who's been doing alterations for 40 years, even managed to make the three-quarter sleeves a little longer. 

Her customers, she told me, "know once they get here, I'll know how to fix it, no matter what... Sometimes I even surprise myself."

Whether you're an estate-sale fiend, a thrift-store picker or going through your grandmother's attic, you've likely come across something—a dress, a watch, a coffee table—that has potential but needs repairs beyond what you can do yourself. If it's clothing, take it to Maddalena Sciacca (4535 30th St. in Normal Heights, 619-920-2725); if it's something else, hopefully someone below can help.

Cameras: Photographer Dan Chusid estimates his own vintage-camera collection numbers around 700. While he tries to fix them up himself, if he can't, he'll take them to Kurt's Camera Repair (7811 Mission Gorge Road, Suite E) or Pro Camera Repair (7910 Ratheon Road in Clairemont). He also enjoys perusing Camera Exposure (2703 Adams Ave. in University Heights).

"They carry an extensive amount of vintage cameras and lenses and they also do repairs on vintage equipment," Chusid says in an email. "This would be the place to go for the parts that might be impossible to find elsewhere." 

Art: I asked Dave Hampton, an expert in mid-century art and co-founder of Objects USA, where he goes to get art restored and framed. 

"Paintings conservator Sarah Murray," he says, "who used to be with the Balboa Art Conservancy in the park but has been solo for about a decade and is quite reasonable cost-wise given her professional calibre (she's British so you get the accent experience, just lovely...). She is attached to my framer of choice, the talented Janos Novak, owner of J. Dewers" (715 Eighth Ave., Downtown, smconservation.com).

Furniture: I also asked Hampton about furniture repair. He cryptically gave me two names: Lalo and Ming. "Based in Bankers Hill under the airplanes, Lalo is also a dancer," he wrote in an email. He told me to call David Skelley, who owns Boomerang, a Little Italy mid-century furniture store.

Ming, Skelley told me, is Ming Pan. "Heís fabulous," Skelley says. "Plus, he gets it. No matter what you need to have done, he'll do it correctly." Pan owns Oriental Furniture Repair in Pacific Beach (5111 Santa Fe St., 858-273-5728). Lalo, unfortunately, isn't taking new customers, but Skelley suggests Abbas Upholstery and Design (3003 Adams Ave. in University Heights, 619-281-0941). Tony Moorhead, who owns Antiques on Kettner in Little Italy and also handles estate sales, takes his upholstery jobs to Rufino Serna (4275 37th St. in City Heights, 619-203-1120).

Jewelry and watches: For jewelry and watch repair, Moorhead likes Irelia Fine Jewelry (2136 Kettner Blvd.). Skelley recommends Asim Gunlap, who owns the perfectly named A Gunlap Horologist Watch & Clock Shop in Old Town (2350 San Diego Ave.). And if you're in the market to buy something in working condition, Gunlap's got some pretty cool vintage watches, Skelley says.

Email kellyd@sdcitybeat.com or follow her on Twitter at @citybeatkelly.


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