Restoring the Past at TB Writers Plus

Brandon Berry
6 min readSep 11


35mm photo by Brandon Berry

Deconstructing the carriage of a 1912 Smith Premier No. 10 in his garage, Trevor Brumfield jimmies out the near-fossilized platen with screwdrivers and a mechanic’s ingenuity. He’s wearing a wool newsboy cap and a starchy button-up advertising his east Dayton typewriter repair shop, TB Writers Plus. It opened for business in January 2023, barely a year after Trevor bought his first manual Royal. But Trevor says he goes 110 percent on almost everything, converting his enthusiasms into obsessions, so this progression seems par for the course.

In the garage alone sits roughly 50 typewriters in various states of disrepair. Thirty were picked up at an estate sale that week, while 300 are rumored to be occupying the crevices of his house. A quick walkthrough from the kitchen to the basement to the storage/bedrooms confirms those numbers.

Trevor’s never dealt with the No. 10 before, but that doesn’t stop him from finding the throughline. Most typewriters have keys, feed rollers, knobs, levers, spools, and decals, though it takes a greaser’s mind to understand how it’s all put together. Trevor’s working knowledge of automobiles (his daytime gig) ostensibly translates well. He’s preparing his recent overhaul for sale, starting with the early-twentieth-century device in front of him before moving on to the rest of the Underwoods, Remingtons, and LC Smiths for alignments and chemical baths.

Talking with his customer-turned-employee, Keenan Gier, on the adjacent workbench, Trevor says he’s always looking for solutions instead of problems. He continues to yank and shove and barter with the higher powers for a release.

Twang! The platen is pried out. It smacks Trevor’s grease and ink-stained fingers to which he sardonically yelps, “owie.” If there were a camera, he’d be playing to it, but right then the audience consisted of me and Keenan. He demonstrates the petrified rubber versus its replacement by tapping both on a utility cart. “Hard as glass,” Trevor said. Hygienist instruments rattle on the shelf below as he alternates between the two. Ting, thuck! Ting, thuck!

Keenan simultaneously marvels at and is indifferent to the platen-thwacking, obliging his mentor even though he’d probably seen the demonstration several times before. He’s kicking back with a beer, taking a break from replacing the rubber feet on his girlfriend’s machine; working on his collection of typewriters seems to be his role at TB Writers Plus. He borrows the workbench and tools in return for keeping Trevor company a few nights a week. Keenan’s twenty-seven, a year older than Trevor, but the three of us are lumped into the same category: mid-to-late-twenties eccentrics interested in technologies that predate our existence.

But why is antiquated appealing? Why does it feel as though typewriter enthusiasts, specifically, are living in an alternate universe where typewriters are still practical modes of communication and word processing? Why was I hanging out in a garage with a ’50s Smith-Corona Skyriter with a ribbon-reversal issue, and why was I willing to pay Trevor Brumfield $145 to fix it?

Trevor has the flea marketer disposition, verified by his vintage dictionaries, drawer of cufflinks, and lucrative typewriter collection, all informed by his favorite bygone-era platitude: they don’t make ’em like they used to.

There are about a dozen typewriter repair shops in Ohio, a majority clustered around bigger cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati. But in the western part of the state lives the new guy, TB (Trevor Brumfield) Writers Plus, maintaining one old machine at a time. I reached out via Google (because a phone number couldn’t be found in the Yellow Pages) and set up a day to drop off the Skyriter. Their prices seemed reasonable enough: $10 for a ribbon; $25 for a basic surface-level cleaning; $35 for new feet. I pulled up to the front door of the Brumfield residence — technically the back door of the business — willing to drop a crisp Ulysses S. Grant on the repairs, but prepared to drop more if necessary. I rang their Ring doorbell (not quite the 18th-century lion head door knocker I envisioned) and was greeted by the safety-bespectacled namesake.

“Is that a Zephyr?” Trevor asked. That’s another Corona-brand typewriter with a similar metal case. He opened it up and gave me a preliminary prognosis in the mud room, which was littered with children’s toys and IBM Selectrics. His affable wife Rebecca told me not to mind the mess as we made a beeline to the workshop, passing many, yes, typewriters, including a turn-of-the-century understroke made entirely of wood. Museum talks are underway, although their home already appears to be one.

Trevor acquired an average of 16 machines per month since he bought his first, leaving their residence to house somewhere in the vicinity of hundreds and hundreds. But how many is too many? They say as long as the business keeps making money, they’re going to continue buying typewriters for their parts and resale values.

“It’s a terrible business model,” Trevor admits. “A typewriter repair shop should not work,” but somehow TB Writers Plus is always in the black, perhaps because of their resourceful use of surplus garage space. A brick-and-mortar storefront is something they’ve been kicking around, though Trevor mentions storage costs and unwanted hands touching the machines as drawbacks. In their own house, the Brumfields control the narrative.

I anticipated the Basic Cleaning but opted for the Internal Cleaning level at $100 more after Trevor’s convincing. Rusty springs. Oil to peanut butter grease. Holes in the ribbon. The only doomsday typewriter fix I decided against was a new platen; it wasn’t quite as hard as glass yet. He rolled out a rickety Royal on a creeper from under his workbench and typed up the bill. He tagged my Skyriter with an orange “REPAIR” label and slid it onto the shelf like a cadaver in a cold locker.

Trevor’s proprietary typewriter knowledge was likely acquired out of necessity. He fixed family cars while living in the sticks of New Hampshire, and now he fixes typewriters because he lives in Dayton’s typewriter-repair desert. He’s not quite an expert — he’s unwilling to deal with a lot of later IBMs — but Trevor’s as close to one that I’ve ever met, and twenty-six at that. The older aficionados are dying off, as are the machines themselves, but young people like the Brumfields are keeping typewriters afloat in the digital age.

Trevor often cites the supportive typewriter community as part of their success, name-dropping the folks in Riverside, Cincy, New York, Seattle, Nashville, and Portland whenever possible. The industry has no choice but to abandon the current cutthroat practices of gainful businesses, and to keep each other in their respective rolodexes since not every typewriter repair person can do it all; some specialize in ribbons and platens while others provide strikers and rubber feet. Because they’re no longer mass-produced, one machine might require five others to be harvested and repurposed as parts machines, proving their mortality has a short fuse.

Typewriter junkies are either nostalgia-clingers or old souls retroactively wishing for an earlier birth. In his mid-twenties, Trevor Brumfield lands in the latter category. He’s doing more for typewriters at TB Writers Plus now than the former users who abandoned them. It’s an expensive hobby to upkeep, impractical in a world of chips and data, but an evidence board in the Brumfield living room connects customers and devotees across the country to an east Dayton garage with pins and red yarn. They’re still out there.

Rebecca brings a wine bottle into the workshop. There’s a sketch of a typewriter on the front. Trevor inspects the bottle. “Do you know what typewriter that is?” he asks. “I know what typewriter that is.” Keenan doesn’t, but Trevor says it’s an LC Smith. All I know is that the bottle is as hard as glass and that Trevor Brumfield’s eyes perked up when he saw it.

— Originally published in Big Sister #1, 2023.

Enjoy typewriters? Got one to show off? Looking to buy, or need repairs?

TB Writers Plus is to host the Dayton Type-In at Dayton Metro Library West Branch (300 Abbey Ave, Dayton, OH 45417) on Saturday, October 14th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the spectrum of typewriter enthusiasts. Clickety-clack.



Brandon Berry

Music and culture journalist. "Off Brand" column appeared in the Whidbey News-Times.