Eddie Vinton is an analog man in a digital world – and proud of it.
His electrical repair shop Vintronics, which has recently moved to Stuart St, on Holmes Hill, is testament to his philosophy of fixing appliances rather than throwing them out.
It is the fifth time Vintronics has changed location since Mr Vinton first set up shop in the bottom level of the Junction Hotel in 1982, so he is used to rehoming his collection of parts of appliances that he has built up over his 55-year career.
In December last year, he was given notice of the end of his tenancy in Tees St, so he sought out somewhere new.
“There is a stack of empty shops in Thames St but nobody can pay the rent; the small businesses don’t have enough turnover,” he said.
“That doesn’t matter to me, though. I don’t need the foot traffic.”
His career in the industry started a world away when he began an electronic services apprenticeship at the age of 15 in Polgate, on the southeast coast of England, where he is from.
“We worked with everything; everything was fixed back then,” he said.
His first stint in New Zealand in 1971 was for Tisco, a nationwide electronic servicing company, and he was based in Oamaru.
Over the next decade, he travelled back and forth between New Zealand and England, but always ended up going back to the same job in the same town, and even lived in the same block of flats at the Junction Hotel.
“When I first came to Oamaru I went down to the men’s club.
“I knew nobody when I walked in and 40 people when I walked out.
“The people were genuinely friendly – I wasn’t used to that in England.”
The Junction Hotel flats were cold to live in but England was “a damn sight colder”, he said.
In 1982, he moved to Oamaru permanently and branched out on his own, mostly repairing commercial appliances for Gillies, and the Vintronics business was born.
In the ’70s and ’80s most electronic appliances were built to last, and were designed to be repaired and maintained, he said.
“There was a time when a TV cost as much as a car.
“Flatscreens have been the demise – why would you repair one when you can throw it out and get a new one cheaper?”
Before the digital age, manufacturers competed not on price but on quality, he said.
“Now people don’t care [about quality]; they expect it all to be good and pay next to nothing for it.”
The Mark Twain quote “people today know the price of everything but the value of nothing” seemed to be a reflection of consumer culture ahead of its time, he said.
Mr Vinton repairs music gear for many of Oamaru’s musicians and said vinyl and vintage sound systems were making a comeback.
“It is surprising how many people are still into vinyl.”
The shop has a point of difference – big-name electronics stores do not have parts for stereos dating back decades.
Mr Vinton estimated he had about 2000 clients, who kept coming back.
“They are passionate about [analog electronics].
At 71 years old, it would have been easy for Mr Vinton to call it a day, but the job is a passion for him.
“I love this job.
“Human beings are not digital.”