Above: During its heyday at the turn of the century, the Underwood factory in Hartford was the world’s largest supplier of typewriters, like this one.
Hemingway had a Royal. Dr. Seuss had a Smith Corona. Karin Kessler, owner of Backspace, a nostalgic typewriter store on Mill Road, has them all. Her store, which opened in 2017, welcomes creative types, gift-givers and those craving a blast from the past.
As we see with Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, millennials and hipsters alike, nostalgia is always trending. People nowadays are purchasing vinyls over CDs, Polaroid cameras over digital ones. Backspace is no exception. Her store on Church Street, fittingly named after the keystroke, has people of all ages popping in to test their skills on one of the store’s countless vintage typewriters, purchase one or just catch up with friends over a cup of coffee and a board game, another old-school pastime she’s passionate about.
Karin’s fascination began several years ago when she was thinking of a Christmas present for her kids. She purchased a 1930s Hitchcock black portable one for them, but it was she who was the most grateful for the gift. Her fascination soon became a full-fledged business that enabled her to share her appreciation for typewriters with others. One of the earlier turn-of-the-century Remington models sits proudly on a shelf in front of Karin’s store (it’s not for sale). She quickly fell in love with German typewriters, but shared that she’s eager to get her hands on an American-made Oliver type 1; she calls it the “Holy Grail” of typewriters.
She has since received hundreds of typewriters, mostly from individuals who have had them passed down from relatives who would smile at the thought of their machines going to a place that values them. Those on display are organized by type and by country of origin. With World Wars I and II in mind, she muses lightly, “Can I put the French near the German?”
Her store is also filled with antique bottle openers, chess boards made out of motor parts, dietician pamphlets from back in the day, and a few rare “Trump the Game” board games from the 1980s. Typewriters aside, Karin wants her space to serve as a communal gathering place, where students and artists can work and share ideas.
Karin’s store has garnered praise from all over, most notably from actor and typewriter enthusiast, Tom Hanks. In response to this, she shared, “My journey has been fascinating. I have learned, and with great appreciation, about the development and progression of an invention which became an indisputable necessity of life for over one hundred years. In my quest for interesting, rare and desirable typewriters, I have discovered ‘gifts’ that complement my collection. These items consist of what I consider meaningful. They are practical, useful and memorable. I hope that you are inspired and find that perfect gift.”
5 ONLINE RITUALS
You Need to Break Right Now
Your online habits can reveal confidential information about you to hackers. Erika Ellis of tech consultants The TNS Group (thetnsgroup.com), based in Stamford, offers resolutions to safeguard your online activity.
Button up your personal info. Posting vacation photos is a welcome mat for someone to visit your home. Don’t post anything that reveals that you’re not home, disable location sharing, and don’t post significant dates.
Using the name of your pet and numbers? Every password for every site should be different and include multiple characters. Use a password-management app.
AVOID PUBLIC WI-FI
It’s a window for hackers to look at everything you access. Never log into anything with personal info or sensitive company data. Turn off Wi-Fi when not in use and get prompts before auto log-ins.
BE EMAIL WARY
Phishing emails appear trustworthy, but links or attachments could subject you to ransomware. Treat them as hostile until proven otherwise.
USE CAUTION WITH INVITES
Consider the stakes before adding a stranger to your network. Cyber-stalking opens your world via social media and can reveal ample information.
1263 Post Rd. E.,
Image contributed by Henry Kessler.