Helping shift focus to writing in the key of yesteryear, Mt. Airy man lovingly tends typewriters


With the holiday season upon us, everyone is talking about the latest gadgets.

But behind a bright storefront on the corner of Carpenter Lane and Greene Street in Mt. Airy, Bryan Kravitz is helping people find the perfect … not-so-new technology. On a recent drizzly Wednesday evening, he was surveying Joli Harnish’s Remington typewriter.

Much to Harnish’s delight, he called the shining black typewriter “very stylish.”

for newsworks1 20151203 1892946447

Joli Harnish’s Remington typewriter. (Bastiaan Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

Twenty-nine-year-old Harnish is an art teacher with a penchant for doing things the old way. After splurging and buying the typewriter as a 25th birthday present to herself, she’s spent the last several years looking for someone to help her fix it up.

Then in came Philly Typewriter, Kravitz’s shop — where you can trade in your old Underwood or Royal, get it fixed or buy one. He also works out of a location in South Philly.

Kravitz’s very first job out of school in the ’70s was fixing typewriters. Then, a funny thing happened.

“I fixed them between 1975 and 1990 and then these big bad computers came in,” he said. ” The nerve of them, they stopped me from fixing typewriters.”

He’s spent the last 25 years doing myriad other jobs, but circled back to typewriters this year. He saw these old machines making something of a comeback as people get more impatient with modern technology.

“People are distracted by computers. That’s totally what it is, and we have learned to be distracted,” he said. “So at the same time we are losing our edge of creativity because we are selling it out to be distracted. You use a typewriter, you use it for one thing.”

Harnish agreed. Once her typewriter is fixed, she wants to start writing letters to family on it, especially to her nephew. 

“When people reconnect physically with anything that they do, even to connect physically with your ideas, it’s an empowering experience and it legitimizes your place,” she said.

for newsworks1 20151203 1271439848

Joli Harnish and Bryan Kravitz going over the alignment of her typewriter. (Bastiaan Slabber/for NewsWorks)

Pamela Rogow, who owns Moving Arts of Mt. Airy, where Philly Typewriter has set up shop, said Kravitz is bringing back the kind of dedication you used to need to write something.

“You don’t have a message coming in while you are typing, and six other reminders that you are doing 12 things on the computer at the same time. It’s a more singular focus, it’s almost more meditative,” said Rogow.

Kravitz isn’t relying on the shop to support himself. And the low overhead of using community spaces means he can stay open with even a small customer base. But listen to him talk about typewriters, and you can hear dedication and passion.

“There’s really nobody left to talk about them the way that I can talk about them.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal