Owner of Bremerton Office Machine Company finds attention and fulfillment among time-worn typewriters – and their fans
“IF YOU’RE OVER 90, it’s same day service,” says Paul Lundy of Bremerton Office Machine Company. “Everyone else is in line.” (It usually takes two to three months to have a typewriter serviced.)
Muriel Erickson, 97, arrives with her 1968 Hermès. Friends drove her from Sequim. She brought it in for an annual tune-up.
Lundy says, “Ready in two and a half hours.”
There is a Starbucks nearby to wait.
Erickson is not his oldest client. There is another who is 98 years old.
“Time is precious to them,” says Lundy.
Erickson uses his Hermès every day. “I love it,” she said. “I love the sound, how it works. It’s a good typewriter.
The platen (roller) is worn out and Wite-Out correction fluid residue is everywhere. It is immediately deposited on Lundy’s desk.
HIS JOURNEY TO Bremerton began when he saw the 2014 Seattle Times feature Erik Lacitis and I did on former owner Bob Montgomery.
“I knew I had to meet this guy,” says Lundy, who went to visit and stayed for over four hours. Typewriters were stacked everywhere. But, he says, “Mr. Montgomery is a master craftsman,” and he was taken by his passion.
He started going to the store on Saturdays to chat with Montgomery and take him to lunch. A few weeks later, Lundy asked to become Montgomery’s apprentice—unpaid, ultimately, as the company’s earnings were low or non-existent and rent arrears were overdue.
Lundy was looking for a change from his position as facilities manager at an Eastside biotech company. Lundy, 61, says he’s always loved fixing things. “I know troubleshooting.”
“He made me clear a spot in the back, and I didn’t look back,” Lundy said. “I really enjoyed every moment with Mr. Montgomery.
“I think I can do it.”
From November 2014, Lundy traveled by van pool from his home in Kingston to Bothell, back to Kingston and then Bremerton to work in the workshop on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He was working at one job and learning another. His carpool mates thought he was crazy.
“I was happy as facilities manager,” says Lundy.
But there was something about that typewriter shop. He was impressed with Montgomery, who “had an ear,” Lundy says. “He could recognize a typewriter by sound.”
MONTGOMERY had been trying to sell the business for years. Lundy bought it at the end of 2014 and left his job at Bothell in April 2015.
Montgomery was “always the boss,” Lundy says. Montgomery fell in 2018 and died on September 10 of the same year, aged 96.
Montgomery had kept a bed in the back for naps.
Let’s go. Lundy organized the shop and added a showroom for old, refurbished typewriters that come with a one-year warranty. It has around 400 machines that supply parts as needed. It also has tiny lathes to machine parts as needed.
“The first is to repair; the second is to replace the part; the third is to do the role,” he says.
Business comes from everywhere. Lundy recently FedExed a repaired 1940s typewriter in Switzerland. Shipping costs more than the fix. This client sent him two more.
He charges $55 an hour. Average cleaning and tune-up is $175.
A CUSTOMER BRINGS two IBM Selectrics. Lundy says these are the fastest and most complex electromechanical typewriters. They were made from 1961 to 1986 and have 2,800 pieces.
He assesses one and says, “It’s been over-oiled.” The oil freezes over time and combines with dog hair. Now for the good news: “However, the ‘h’ works.”
The customer decides to have one repaired and to offer the other to the store.
What Lundy loves about the typewriter is, “There’s nothing between you and that. It’s the only machine I know of that just puts ideas on paper. It concentrates the thoughts. They are my children, as I call them. They’re snappers, cowards-goosey. Just fun to use.
And Muriel, he says, is “my kind of client”.
MARK TWAIN would have been too.
He called the typewriter his “state-of-the-art typewriter.” It could only produce capital letters. He became the first author to deliver a typescript – his memoir, “Life on the Mississippi”, published in 1883.
The late author Joan Didion said, “I’m totally in control of this tiny little world right there at the typewriter.”
And Northwest author Tom Robbins said: “At the typewriter you find out who you are.”
In his shop, Lundy knows who he is.
“The store is visually appealing. It is positive work. The most fulfilling job I’ve ever had.
Moreover, he says, “Clicketyclack is typewriter music.”