This Northeast Philly man wants to scatter 2,000 typewriters across town

A typewriter-fixing class at his South Philly store will help Bryan Kravitz, owner of Philly Typewriter, hit the goal by 2020.

Bryan Kravitz in his South Philly workshop. (Courtesy photo)

Typewriter mechanic Bryan Kravitz (often spotted at our Philly Tech Week kickoff festivals mentoring first-time typewriter users) has a vision where kids in Philly schools and libraries learn to type their names on vintage typewriters.

“Computers are great, and I use one every day,” said Kravitz, 68, of Northeast Philly. “But there’s just nothing like a typewriter.”

The owner of repair shop Philly Typewriter is looking to place the nostalgic clickety-clack of typewriters in publicly accessible spaces. The first one is already up and running at the Fumo Family Library. That means just 1,999 to go to hit his projected goal of 2,000 by 2020 as part of the Philadelphia Public Typewriter Program.

A typewriter mechanic since the 1970s, Kravitz said interest in the machines has upticked in the last few years. His South Philly shop, in the corner of Passyunk and Dickinson, has been open and seeing patrons on the daily, he says. The latest program is a push to use that interest to spread typewriter use to public spaces.

“When you give a child access to a typewriter, what they see is the letters they know,” Kravitz said. “Their fingers can’t hold a pencil, but they sure can tap a key.”

To help the program reach its goal — and, yes, to help sustain the storefront space the company occupies — Philly Typewriter launched a workshop series (with sessions happening biweekly over the course of five weeks) meant to teach enthusiasts to repair and restore typewriters. For $75, they can pick up the skills and restore a machine from Kravitz’s inventory to be used for the public typewriter program. For $300, they get to take the machine they’ve repaired.

“We don’t want someone not to come because you can’t afford it, though,” Kravitz said. “If people don’t have the $75, we can work something out.”

Those interested in taking on the workshop can reach out by emailing Kravitz or calling him on the store’s landline: 267-541-2100. It’s unlikely you’ll get to have a conversation with him without his love for typewriters to come through.

“When you type and hear that sound, your brain goes to the next thing,” Kravitz said. “It’s like you’re manufacturing something, whereas with a computer it’s a whole stream. You can actually be a part of the creative process and, this way, there’s nothing between you and the written word on a piece of paper.”

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