Tucked away on West 17th Street in Chelsea is a small shop that stands as a testament to a bygone era: Gramercy Typewriter Company. Nestled on the tree-lined block, this family-owned typewriter shop has been an enduring presence since its inception in 1932. Today, it’s the last and only remaining typewriter shop in the city.
Gramercy Typewriter Company’s story is a captivating narrative of resilience and passion passed down through generations – three generations to be exact. The business was founded by Abraham Schweitzer in the early 20th century, before being passed down to his son Paul Schweitzer and ultimately his grandson (Paul’s son) Jay Schweitzer, who runs the shop now. The youngest Schweitzer, Jay, got his start in the business at a very young age. “My dad would take me in a few days a week and I’d help with some little tasks here and there,” Jay recalls.
As the last stronghold of typewriting in the city, Gramercy Typewriter Company has become a haven for enthusiasts, writers and curious visitors seeking a tangible connection to the past. “We were once one of countless typewriter shops around the city because it was a necessity,” says Jay. “If anything, we were one of the smaller ones. The other places had some really big operations going on.” The small and intimate shop provides an immersive experience, allowing patrons to explore the mechanics of these timeless machines and relive the tactile joy of pressing keys and hearing the rhythmic clicks and clacks. The shop’s shelves are filled with an array of vintage typewriters, each with its own history, uniqueness and character.
Gramercy Typewriter Company has weathered the storms of technological revolutions that rendered typewriters obsolete for most. First was the invention of electric typewriters, then word processors and eventually computers. Typewriters were being pushed aside and barely being used anymore. “Little by little, all these other shops were closing because of a lack of business,” says Jay. “Customers that we had for decades just went from calling every week to calling every now and then,” he says.
But the tides would slowly begin to turn. Jay says Gramercy Typewriter Company is busier now than they were decades ago, and he attributes it to a few different factors, with the first being its tenure. “Having the longevity we have, people rely on us for that know-how,” he says. It also helps that they’re the only surviving shop of its kind.
The Schweitzer family stood tall through the drought and the changes, and it paid off. All of a sudden, in the late 90’s, people started to become interested in typewriters again. “People realized by then they were tired of looking at the screen…being more in control and not having the distractions that the computer gives you,” says Jay.
Staying in business for over 90 years doesn’t happen by accident. “What the average customer doesn’t realize is that so much is done behind the scenes and after and before business hours,” says Jay. “I’m typically doing a lot of the work and overhauls, reconditioning, repairs and maintenance during the wee hours. It’s a big, big commitment in order to stay afloat. Without that commitment we wouldn’t be able to be here,” he says.
The dedicated staff at Gramercy Typewriter Company possess a wealth of expertise. Before purchasing a typewriter, customers have the opportunity to sit down with whoever’s working and get a personalized tutorial after walking through the different models, in which they go over the nuances of their respective designs and operations. This not only helps customers make informed decisions but also gain a deeper appreciation for the craftsmanship involved in creating these machines. From simple repairs to detailed restoration projects, they skillfully and lovingly rejuvenate old vintage typewriters to work like new ones.
In a world dominated by mass-produced technology, the shop’s commitment to prioritizing quality is a rarity; where convenience overshadows feeling, Gramercy Typewriter Company symbolizes the opposite. Gramercy Typewriter Company stands as a nostalgic oasis, inviting customers to slow down a little bit and savor the intricacies of typewriting.
“As long as people still need us and people still have an interest, we’re still going to be here,” says Jay.
Address: 108 W 17th St.
Hours of operation: Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact: 212-674-7700 or email@example.com.