March 31, 2023

Going back almost as far as he can recall, Ronnie Partridge took broken things and made them whole.

“I found stuff on the side of the road, and took it back to the house and made it work again. That’s how it all started,” says Mr. Partridge, who owns Ronnie’s Small Engine Repair here on the edge of Beaufort National Cemetery, deep in South Carolina Lowcountry.

A local mechanic hired him when he was 15 and, 10 years later, the student became the master. At the time, Mr. Partridge couldn’t afford to buy the shop. But the owner, upon retirement, gave him his collection of tools – many of which are still lying around his workshop, which he has owned for decades now. 

Why We Wrote This

In a digital age, companies are shifting the definition of ownership. The right to fix what you buy lies at the heart of a growing battle over fairness and the future of American ingenuity.

Mr. Partridge says fixing stuff has always engaged his brain, but also calmed his soul. His admittedly “messy” workshop is a wonderland of parts and broken skeletons of lawn mowers past. Amid the tangle, he has the air of a grease-smeared monk – content with a knowledge that almost anything is fixable.

His is a thoroughly American story, woven throughout with self-determination, willpower, and an indomitable can-do attitude. 

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