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From Typewriters to Futuristic Office Machines, Adapting with the Times Helped One Family Run Company Stay in Business for over a Century

Published on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 | 8:30 am
The side of Anderson Typewriter Company, in the 1960s. with Elmer Anderson, the founder and his son Don Anderson

You may have seen the Anderson Typewriter Company building that revels in its antique brick glory in Old Pasadena. Although it seems to look just the way it did when it opened way back in 1912, a lot has changed since its humble beginnings for the family-run company that’s managed to not just last over 100 years in business, but thrive.

President of what is now called Anderson Business Technology, third-generation David Anderson, says adapting to the times is key to how his family’s typewriter repair shop of yesteryear has transformed into a digital office machine company today.

“You have to be willing to change with the times. Every company has requirements and changes that happen and you need to constantly be reinvesting in your company to be able to make those changes,” said Anderson.

A typewriter repair technician by trade from Michigan, Carl Elmer Anderson started the Anderson Typewriter Company in Pasadena in 1912 after falling in love with the City as a vacationer.

His idea to start the company came when he quickly realized he would become the only service for miles that was able to repair typewriters, which was a skilled trade and a service that was much in demand during that time.

Anderson quickly cemented himself as the go-to-guy for all things typewriters and business boomed. He secured and held the Royal Typewriter franchise from San Luis Obispo County to San Diego County, according to the company website.

Early customers included Mr. Wrigley of chewing gum fame, United States Vice President Charles Warren Fairbanks (under President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration), and local Citizens Bank, which is still a customer today.

Towards the end of World War II, many American and foreign manufacturers introduced a successful electric typewriter, which prompted Anderson to add many other types of office equipment to their line, including photocopy machines. “Everything For The Office” became the company’s motto.

“Our concentration wasn’t to make the company as big as we could. It was to do things really, really well and support our customers really well,” said Anderson.

This would ultimately prove to be the decision that set the company up for decades of business to come.

The 1970’s were known “electronic era” for office machines, according to Anderson, and electronic typewriters rapidly began to replace the electric typewriters.

So what did the company do? It embraced the new technology and became one of the leaders in the sales and service for it. Not to mention it handled the first commercially successful table-top computers as well.

“Technology just keeps going and it’s critical that we always catch up to it and, better yet, stay ahead of it,” said Anderson. “The changes had to be made.”

The Anderson Typewriter Company changed its name in the mid ‘90s to Anderson Business Technology to better represent the new digital technology it provided customers which included high volumes of Xerox fax machines and copiers that became a main focus of business for Anderson and his team.

Fast forward to 2017: Anderson Business Technology has a loyal customer base throughout the entirety of Los Angeles County and is recognized as one of the leading document management and office technology companies around.

David D. Anderson, President (L) shown with father Donald H. Anderson, Chairman of the Board (R)

“The business has stayed in business and thrived because they’ve been able to adjust to the marketplace,” said Pasadena Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Little.

“They have an amazing and well deserved reputation for customer service,” Little added, “and they’re very good at taking care of their customers and making sure they are happy.”

Anderson admitted that if the company had not transitioned from typewriters and into the various products that evolved into the modern office machines of sorts, it would have gone out of business decades ago.

“Even though people think of us still for typewriters and know and can come to us because of our history, we wouldn’t make enough money to support one employee today from the business we get from servicing typewriters,” explained Anderson.

The generational divide within Anderson’s company is what he says lent fresh eyes and perspective for guiding the business through the decades after first being ran by his grandfather, then his father and now him.

“Part of it is generational that maybe what my grandfather was capable of doing was handed off to my dad who was younger and taking over at that point and so on. We were comfortable making these transitions and looking ahead. We have a philosophy of keeping customers for life and therefore we do things with an integrity and in the right way,” said Anderson.

Customer service is the other part of the equation for maintaining a healthy business for over a century.

“Word of mouth gets around if you do something wrong. You have to give really good customer service and that’s really been our key,” said Anderson who explained that great customer service eventually turns into trust.

“Our customers accepted us in making these transitions, too,” said Anderson.

Anderson Business Technology still services typewriters to this day.

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