Family-run typewriter repair shop keys in on nostalgia

ByBrittany Winderman Localish logo
Thursday, December 29, 2022
Family-run typewriter repair shop keys in on nostalgia
Gramercy Typewriter Co. is the last typewriter store in Manhattan that still actively sells, reconditions, and repairs typewriters.

Chelsea, Manhattan -- On West 17th Street, a small shop sits stalled in time.

Gramercy Typewriter Co. is the last typewriter store in Manhattan that still actively sells, reconditions, and repairs typewriters.

Founded by Abraham Schweitzer, this family-owned business has been going strong since 1932. Now, second-generation owner Paul Schweitzer and his son, Jay, continue to run the business from their Chelsea storefront.

Paul has been servicing and refurbishing typewriters for over 60 years and has watched the industry change over the decades.

"You do hear comments, 'Oh look at that, there's a typewriter store!'...There's a great fascination with that," says Schweitzer.

He joined his father in 1959 after serving in the U.S. Navy for three years. After all these years, Paul is still servicing the same models of typewriters he started working on, from standard office machines to all varieties of portable typewriters.

Being a typewriter repairman definitely came with some obstacles. Technology started to evolve in the late 80s and early 90s, and computers became more common, which meant fewer typewriters and more laser printers. Paul realized he needed to expand his skillset and learn how to service laser printers to keep working with his customers. He continued to service typewriters, but the addition of printers was how he kept the business going.

Jay joined his father around 2008 and has since taken over many aspects of the business.

Since the beginning, Gramercy Typewriter Co. has had two prominent locations for their workshop, in the Flatiron Building and then nearby on Fifth Avenue. But about five years ago, Jay decided it would be nice to have a typewriter storefront. Enter 108 W. 17th St., a small shop where you can try out different models for sale and stock up on paper and other accessories.

They kept the Fifth Avenue location solely as a workshop and storage. But because of the aftermath of Covid and most offices closing, many of their customers did not need their printers serviced, so they shut down that location. Instead, they moved the workshop and inventory to their homes while keeping the store in Chelsea.

"There was still a demand for somebody to fix all these portable typewriters for private individuals, and we were just about one of the last ones left in the city and...we're one of the few left in the United States," explains Paul Schweitzer.

People are shipping Gramercy Typewriter machines from all over the country to get them serviced. So they continue to stay busy and can use the store to focus on selling reconditioned machines.

The shop has a desk area where people can try out different typewriters and get a feel for them before they purchase one.

"Each typewriter has its own personality. Each one has its own type, style, and print. It's so nice to get a letter or note from somebody who's typed it on a typewriter. It's certainly more personal," says Schweitzer.