Bino Gan has never seen any of Woody Allen’s movies, but in his own way he has helped in the writing of them. Mr. Gan has made sure that the famous Olympia typewriter Mr. Allen uses to write his screenplays is always in good pecking order.
Mr. Gan is also not a huge fan of Francis Ford Coppola, but he did service the Olivetti that Mr. Coppola used to write the Oscar-winning screenplay for The Godfather. (Yes, Mr. Gan has seen it.)
He has also serviced the typewriters of writer and editor William Packard and celebrities like designer Tommy Hilfiger. Despite Mr. Gan’s link to boldface names, a majority of his customers have been the many local writers he has kept clacking away during his nearly 40 years as a typewriter repairman.
But Mr. Gan’s typewriter-fixing days are coming to a close. He is shuttering his shop, Typewriters ‘N Things, for good on Tuesday.
“I’ve been working on typewriters most of my life, and I’m a little tired,” said Mr. Gan, who with his wife, Nita, now mostly sells office supplies at the shop.
Mr. Gan is only 60, but “you age faster in the retail business”, he said.
“My last vacation was in 2006,” said Mr. Gan, who plans on relaxing at his home in Dumont, New Jersey.
Aside from test-tapping the keys to evaluate a unit’s condition, Mr. Gan said he has never really used a typewriter himself — nor a computer, for that matter.
A Filipino immigrant, he came to New York in 1976 and learned his trade by working at the typewriter repair shop in midtown Manhattan that his brother opened after he left the Philippines. In 1987, Mr. Gan founded his own store, which has moved three times.
Years ago, Mr. Gan worked full time on the machines, along with his three other repairmen. But by 2000, with the rise of computers, repair requests had nearly halted, although they have become more common over the past five years, he said.
Some older writers have stayed loyal to typewriters, and some younger ones have become fascinated by them. Also, he said, many parents like to expose their children to them.
“People want them as working antiques,” said Mr. Gan, one of a dwindling tribe of typewriter repairers still in business in New York.
Numerous customers have brought their typewriters in for one last repair, providing a spike in business for Mr. Gan in the waning days of his career.
“I turned down three repairs today already,” he said recently. “I have to draw the line somewhere.”
“The mechanical machines are simpler to repair than the electric ones, because it’s simple cause and effect,” Mr. Gan said. “You start at the ribbon and work your way down.”
Next, they worked on a Mercury portable manual unit with a sticking R key. Workman scraped the rust off the key rods and lubricated the mechanisms with a long-nozzled oil bottle.
Most typewriters generally need a new ribbon, a good cleaning and lubrication and they will keep working just fine, Mr. Gan said, adding that he provided this very service for Mr. Coppola’s Olivetti Lettera 32 when the filmmaker brought it in about 10 years ago.
“He told me he used the typewriter to write Godfather 1,” said Mr. Gan, who showed the repair slips he kept, for Mr. Coppola’s machine, and for Mr. Allen’s portable SM-3.
Mr. Gan then pulled out a fistful of rubber belts and pointed out little drawers of washers, springs, keys and buttons. “It’s not like I’ve run out of parts,” he said. — New York Times News Service