So, I want to take time now and again to pay homage to places that have helped foster, curate and develop my love for all things antique. Since I started collecting typewriters in my early teens, it may seem natural that I would want to pay homage to this place. However, as you’ll see, there’s a lot more than a mutual love of typewriters that makes this shop so special to so many people.
Located at 7433 N. Lombard in Portland, you’ll find tucked next to the Maytag Repair shop (another dying breed), a little typewriter shop named Ace Typewriter. Founded in 1961/62 by Dennis McCormack, Ace has been in business continually, run by both father and son- Matthew McCormack.
Starting off with a haul of typewriters purchased from San Francisco, Dennis sold machines, office equipment and maintained machines for local businesses, while working a second part-time job (and attending college) to support his growing family.
Today, most of the business comes from repairs. Matt is one of the few legit typewriter repairmen in the country, and the shop receives calls from all over the world for his expertise and knowledge of these machines. The average cleaning of a single machine can take 2 days and a repair can add days, if not weeks, to the process. With no one producing replacement parts, Matt has had to improvise solutions and often build new parts when there is nothing available from his extensive collection of parts machines. If it can’t be found, or made, there’s no choice but to set some of these earliest machines aside until something comes along to complete the job.
The shop itself is small, though machines are shelved floor to ceiling in a careful disarray. Typewriter advertising and early memorabilia also can be found tucked into every available space. In addition to typewriters there is an incredible selection/collection of antique adding machines- another tribute to a bygone era before the modern computer “simplified” everything into a single unit.
For me, the love of typewriters is sensory. The ability to see, feel and hear my work unfold is irreplaceable. The fact that errors can’t be deleted as fast as they are made is priceless. It connects me to my writing in a way that can’t be replicated by the computer. That’s not to belittle the importance, and overall worth of computers, it’s just to say that in all well rounded things- it’s good to have options. I type almost every day, and I’ve never grown tired of the experience. Each machine has a different personality and each responds differently to speed, pressure, style of writing. It’s an important feeling, to have that connection with something we ordinarily take for granted, or worse, have nearly replaced with modern technology.
One of the things I love about my job, and the only thing that’s made parting with some of my extensive collection of typewriters easier, is the fact that 4 times out of 5, people come in looking for a typewriter because their child wants one. I love the doubtful, and even cautious tone these parents take, when considering whether or not to acquire an “archaic beast” for their child. I imagine some of the lucky kids loose interest after a few weeks, but I like to think about the ones who develop the life long passion for typewriters, and the past.
Depending on which account of the story, you hear- we are either in, or about to celebrate Ace Typewriter’s 50th year in business. I think it’s pretty clear that a giant celebration should be in the works. If you have any ideas, let me know!
Thanks, Ace, for keeping the past relevant and my typewriters looking like magic!
You can check Ace Typewriter out in person Monday – Friday 9am – 4:30pm