The Last Electric Razor Repairman In Paris : Parallels In a tiny shop from a bygone era, Jacques Guillaume gets calls about more than razors because there's nobody to fix things anymore. "Today, manual work like this is passé and obsolete," he says.
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The Last Razor Repairman In Paris

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The Last Razor Repairman In Paris

The Last Razor Repairman In Paris

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FARAI CHIDEYA, HOST:

In Paris, most stores are shut down for the August vacation season. And as a result, the places and people who do stick around suddenly become more apparent. That's true at one small shop that well may be among the last in the city dedicated to repairing electric razors. NPR correspondent Eleanor Beardsley visited the shopkeeper and has this report.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: On an ordinary day, you might miss this slip of a shop wedged between a veterinary clinic and a grocery store in Paris' popular Bastille neighborhood. But on this empty August afternoon, the electric razor clinic jumps right out at me.

Here in a cluttered shop from a bygone era, 73-year-old Jacques Guillaume has been repairing electric razors since 1962. He says he's the last of a kind.

JACQUES GUILLAUME: (Through interpreter) Today, manual work like this is obsolete. Before there were shops that repaired dolls and fountain pens and all sorts of things all the way up into the '70s, but now there are very few of us left.

BEARDSLEY: Guillaume says people send him razors from around France. He's even gotten a few from abroad. Today, he's working on a vintage Sunbeam razor from the 1960s. He says that was a good, solid American brand, but it doesn't exist anymore.

I ask him why people want to fix old razors.

GUILLAUME: (Through interpreter) Because they may have sentimental value or because they are just good razors. Today, razors look good, and they are flashy. But they are cheap, and they are all made in China, even if they say made in Germany.

BEARDSLEY: Since Guillaume's been sitting in this spot for the last 50 years, I ask him what's changed about Paris?

GUILLAUME: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Paris was so different before, he says. People were more connected with each other, and there was a certain civility that we don't even imagine today. For example, explains Guillaume, if a man went out shopping, he wouldn't think of coming home without a bouquet of flowers for his wife.

Guillaume lives with his wife across the street. He still closes his shop every day to go home for lunch.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEPHONE RINGING)

GUILLAUME: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: A call comes from someone asking if he can repair a toaster. Guillaume says he gets calls to fix all manner of appliances. He says people are forced to throw things out because there's no one who repairs stuff anymore. This repairman says he gets about seven customers a day except in August, of course, when most people are away. Guillaume feels vacations aren't the same either. It used to be you made a real break, he says. You shut the door and left. But now people are always connected to their smartphones, so they take their worries with them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: When he's not with a customer, Guillaume listens to the radio news. He can discuss Brazilian politics, and he's closely following the American presidential election. Guillaume knows he's sitting on prime real estate. He says people come in wanting to buy his shop every week.

GUILLAUME: (Through interpreter) I tell them to come back in 20 years. I might not be here, but we'll see.

BEARDSLEY: Guillaume says it's contact with people that keeps him intellectually fit and connected. When you stop working, you just think about yourself, he says, and that's the beginning of the end.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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