MAPLEWOOD, Mo. — There aren't many places left where you can step inside, and immediately feel as if you've been transported to a different era.

Jones Typewriter Co. in Maplewood is one of those unique places, and also happens to be the last typewriter shop in the entire St. Louis area.

 

Now you might be wondering as you watch or read this story on your plasma TV, new tablet or smartphone... typewriters? Are they really still out there?

One trip through the aisles of Jones Typewriter Co. proves these machines aren't even close to going out of style.

"Look around you," sales and serviceman Charles May said. "Some days we get seven or eight machines in to get repaired."

May and owner Vernon Trampe took over the shop close to 15 years ago, and are never short on work.

Some machines come in from collectors, some come from people who still use typewriters on daily basis and others come in as family heirlooms that have been passed down.

"Their father dies and they go into the basement and there's a typewriter.," May said. "That's not bad. They might be mildewed, if it's an old house and a damp basement. The ones that are hardest for us are the ones that have been in a barn for 45 years and are covered with... well let's call it 'barn stuff'".

It's not just St. Louis typewriters, either.

"We got a machine in the other day from Boulder, Colorado," May said. "We got another one in from Kansas City. We got eight of them in from a guy in Denver. He shipped them in in two boxes. I've had people come in from New York and buy a ribbon, and say they couldn't find it in New York."

As you wade through the 'organized chaos' of the shop, you pass by years of history.

Trampe and May have typewriters that date all the way back to the 1880's.

1880's typewriter
This typewriter from the 1880's still has its original wooden keys.
KSDK
1905 typewriter
This typewriter from 1905 doesn't have the usual "QWERTY" keyboard layout, and uses one that prioritizes letters typists used the most.
KSDK

You may be surprised to hear who the main customers are for these machines that have been around for some 140 years; the younger generation.

"Kids love them," May said. "When I say kids, I mean 40 and under. They go nuts. Five-year-old kids come in and a year later they come back with their allowance and spend $75 on a typewriter."

"Parents and grandparents find machines in their basements or their attics, and their grand-kids say, 'Hey grandpa I like that. Can I have it?', and then they'll bring it in here and get it fixed," Trampe said. "It's the younger generation that have never used a typewriter and than all of a sudden they start typing and it totally amazes them. It just draws them in."

As you might expect, parts for typewriters are not easy to come by.

May and Trampe have a sort of 'graveyard' of old, stripped-down machines they use for parts, and have even been known to use some ingenuity to make their own parts when the job requires it.

They say they'll continue to run the shop as long as it's a service to the people.

"That's really why both of us are still doing it," May said. "There's some satisfaction in taking a 100-year-old machine and making it work again, or making it look new."