Employees at the Richard Glässer workshop in Seiffen demonstrate the art of making pyramids and nutcrackers. Picture: Andrea Sachs/The Washington Post

Washington - Q: One of my favourite Christmas pieces is an animated ski scene, but it no longer works. Where can I find someone who can replace the motor or do whatever is needed to make it work again?

A: You're in luck. Happy Holidays Parts, an offshoot of Suntronics Components (954-575-3487; happyholidaysparts.com), sells replacement parts for pieces like yours and will do the repair if you don't want to tackle it yourself.

Owner Victor Baird spent a career working in the toy and electronics parts businesses and eventually started his own parts-supply business. In semi-retirement, he bought several animated holiday pieces. "But none of them worked," he said. He took them apart and figured out what was broken, but he couldn't find a company that supplied replacement parts. He saw a need, started Suntronics to solve it, and eventually created Happy Holidays Parts to give his company a name that was "more Christmas-y" and to honour his late mother, who had a sign in her room that wished visitors "Happy Holidays." The reference to "holidays" rather than just Christmas reflects the fact that companies make animated scenes with Halloween and Easter themes as well.

Companies that manufacture animated or musical holiday scenes typically produce new models every year, and they don't always make it easy for people to identify, much less find, the replacement parts that might be needed years later. Baird's solution is to photograph, inside and out, all the pieces people send him for repairs. He labels the key parts and assembles repair kits with parts that match the capabilities of the original parts so that he's ready to help other customers who later need repairs on identical pieces.

Identifying a piece isn't always easy. Sometimes a label is on the bottom or in a more visible place. And sometimes people just email Baird a picture - at [email protected] - and he figures out what it is.

Baird quickly identified piece in question as a Mr. Christmas St. Nicholas Ski Scene - Sisal Tree. He's seen this piece before, so he has pictures that show the innards, with labels, that you can look up at happyholidaysparts.com. The piece he photographed had a blob of grease that kept the top gear from turning freely, so you might want to open up your unit and see if there is something that needs cleaning. If you need a replacement motor, the picture shows where that is, and Happy Holidays Parts can supply the part plus a new capacitor, a tube of synthetic grease, and a set of motor wires for $30.35. If you need a new pulley belt, that's $14.95. To install a new motor, you would need to use a soldering iron to remove the broken part and to install the new one, taking care to keep the polarity on the connecting wires the same.

If you don't know how to solder, one option is to seek help through a local "maker space," which you can find on the Web by searching for those words plus the name of your community. Or you can send your piece to Happy Holiday Parts and the company will do the repair for you. Repairs generally run $60 to $140, including parts. A need for replacement belts can push up the cost because they come in an endless variety and are harder to source than they once were, before cellphones and smart speakers edged out belt-driven equipment such as cassette players. These days, Baird sometimes resorts to making replacement belts himself, a process that involves creating a mould, pouring in a rubber-type material, and then trimming the finished belt by hand. Some custom belts cost about $50, while others with teeth formed into the belt are $119.

"It's amazing you can have a business where you love what you do," Baird said. "Mostly, it's helping people."

The Washington Post