Linda Lovett carefully types out words on birthday cards for friends — and she’s paying for the experience at a new throwback business downtown.
She’s using a manual typewriter, once a staple in every office and most homes but now a curiosity in the computer age.
Typewriters still have their devotees, who like how the type looks on paper, the clatter of keys, the thump of the space bar and ring of the little bell.
For the younger set, this is all new. For others like retiree Lovett, it’s nostalgic territory and she’s found it at the Regional Assembly of Text at 560 Johnson St., which offers typewriter workstations.
The downtown shop opened March 1, an offshoot of its 700-square-foot parent store at 3934 Main St. in Vancouver, which was established in 2005. It also sells card stock in different shapes, greeting cards, wrapping papers printed with old maps, wooden recipe and address boxes small individually made books, journals and other bits of Canadiana.
Prices are modest, ranging from 25 cents for a paper product to a $30 for a T-shirt screened with an old map of Vancouver Island or a box of rubber stamps.
Three typewriter workstations let customers choose from different colours and shapes of card stock and envelopes. Rubber stamps and inks are on hand. It costs $2 for 20 minutes or $5 an hour to use a typewriter. A fourth workstation has a typewriter that can be used on templates for buttons.
Lovett, a Winnipeg resident vacationing in Victoria, spotted Assembly of Text while on an evening walk. “I had my nose pressed against the glass.” She returned during the day to sit in front of an old grey typewriter, enjoying the “absolute charm” of the task.
Business owners and artist-designers Brandy Fedoruk and Rebecca Ann Dolen, both graduates of Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art and Design, chose Fedoruk’s hometown when they decided to expand.
They have a typewriter collection of about 35.
They host a free letter-writing club in Vancouver once a month, drawing at least 30 people. Men, women, older and younger people all show up, Fedoruk said. “Valentine’s Day was crazy. People were excited to use the typewriter and make something, too.”
Special letter-writing events will be held in Victoria, said manager Tara Hurst, a graphic designer and one of four part-time staff. Of course, the experience of writing a letter using a typewriter differs from firing off an email.
Typed letters are “heartfelt,” Fedoruk said. “It’s a tangible object that you can hold onto and you can revisit.”
Writers figure out their thoughts prior to committing them to paper. There isn’t a delete button to fall back on. “You get to see the mistakes, too. All the flaws are in, which I think is kind of endearing.”
The greeting cards are designed by Fedoruk and Dolen. Cards with a button are $5 while others, many with a Canada or B.C. theme, are $3. Postcards are $2 each or 6 for $20.
They make their own small books in whimsical themes. One called A Selection of Crests Representing Forgotten Organizations of the Animal Kingdom is illustrated with different types of creatures shown in a traditional crest format.
Many products are hand-screened by Fedoruk and Dolen and assembled in Vancouver.
The Johnson Street store is in just 135 square feet, next to access doors through Market Square. While empty storefronts have increased in the city’s downtown, it’s the right spot in Fedoruk’s view.
“It’s the perfect location for us. LoJo is so vibrant,” she said. The area is filled with like-minded small businesses, similar to their Vancouver address.
Regional Assembly of Text is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
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