Bremerton man continues to fix typewriters at age of 94
May 5, 2016, 5:46 PM | Updated: May 6, 2016, 6:23 pm
(Rachel Belle, KIRO Radio)
Bob Montgomery opened Bremerton Office Machine Company in 1946 after serving in World War II. He sold the business about a year ago to Paul Lundy, and together they fix and refurbish typewriters. Business is currently up, as young people rediscover the vintage value of the old, shiny machines.
Montgomery, 94, started repairing typewriters when he was seven years old.
“My father had an office machine store in downtown Seattle,” Montgomery said. “(It was at) 821 3rd Avenue.”
In 1946, after he spent four years in the army during World War II, he moved to Bremerton.
“I came over here, with my father as a matter of fact, and we opened this business, Bremerton Office Machine Company,” he said.
That business is still exclusively repairing and selling typewriters today.
But about a year ago Paul Lundy bought Bremerton Office Machine Company. Lundy worked for a biotech company for 30 years, but then he read an article about Montgomery and his typewriter repair shop.
“I had been looking for a change in my own job,” Lundy said. “I met Mr. Montgomery and I immediately saw that he was a master craftsman. The depth of knowledge (he has). Any machine that was in here, he was working on, he knew how it was developed, when it was developed, what changes they made.”
“All of the little idiosyncrasies immediately hooked me. So I started coming in on Saturdays, ‘Just give me a machine, I want to see if I can do this,'” he said. “And, eventually, one day a week led to two days a week, three days a week and then suddenly I was working two jobs.”
Until he quit his old job and became a full-time typewriter repairman. Mr. Montgomery still comes in a couple days a week.
“He comes in and we have our comradery, chatting, having a doughnut and reading typewriter books,” Lundy said, as the two of them nibble on bear claws from the bakery next door. “And then he’s got his work bench where there are always machines. He has fun working on them.”
“We do our best to keep them running,” Montgomery says, referring to the typewriters surrounding him. “Everybody who comes in looks around and says, ‘Are people still using these?’ And I say, ‘Yes! People still use them!’ And they’re paying premium prices for these machines.”
The typewriter repair business is currently experiencing an upswing. The shop gets customers who have been coming in for 30 years, but also lots of new typewriter enthusiasts.
“We have businesses which use them,” Lundy said. “Virtually every legal office in Kitsap County has got a typewriter sitting beside the computer, just for filling in [forms]. Then you have the collectors. The people who just enjoy this bit of industrial technology that they’ve seen develop over time.”
“It’s so much fun because you get a chance to work on some pretty historic typewriters. And then there are families who have rediscovered their family heirlooms and want them running for the kids,” he said. “We even get people buying typewriters for the kids going back to college. Which used to be really common and is becoming popular again.”
The shop cannot survive on repairs alone, so Mr. Montgomery and Lundy refurbish old typewriters until they shine and clack, and then they sell them.
“I get favorites in, like, an Olivetti Lettera 32 was my favorite for the last three weeks,” Lundy said, who didn’t even own a typewriter when he bought the business. “And then somebody saw it on our website. Goll darn it! Why do I put things on the website? They wanted it, so we sold it.”
Walking into Bremerton Office Machine Company is like walking into a living museum; heavy, shiny black typewriters from the early 1900s stand beside powder blue electric typewriters from the 1980’s. The back room holds stacks and stacks of typewriters in their cases, used only for their parts.
The guys sell an old fashioned product and they give old fashioned service.
“I have many people who come in and they go, ‘When can I get it back?’ And I go, ‘Well, our backlog is about four weeks right now.’ And they just look at me,” Lundy said. “And I have to explain to them that sometimes this is a contemplative business where the problem that we’re looking at on the machine may not actually be the real problem. It’s best not to be rash. So you take your time, you contemplate and you make the right choice. So that makes us a very patience based business.”