Discovering hospitality while hunting for typewriter ribbon



Recently, my wife and I traveled from our cabin near Ely to the Virginia and Mt. Iron area to shop. Exiting off Highway 53 onto 2nd Avenue, our first stop was to see if by luck I could buy a typewriter ribbon at Range Office Supply & Equipment on Chestnut Street.

Entering this hometown store, I could envision its past history based on the décor and was greeted by a pleasant gentleman who was eager to help. He felt he might find this item possibly in the back on what I thought could have been a forgotten shelf.

After a short time, he walked to the counter with a small package saying that the old Smith Corona ribbon he had found might fit my old Sears typewriter. The sticker on the package, from possibly 30-plus years ago, showed a price of $7.25. He told me it might not fit since the reels were a touch larger and asked if I’d buy it for a dollar. His thought was that if it didn’t work, I could re-wind the tape on my old spools. It sounded like a great deal to me.

When exiting the store, I asked a nice lady if the pastry and bread bakery served a luncheon. She said they did, although they had a small menu, but said that the food was good and it was an enjoyable place.

While chatting with her, we found out that her name was Maija and she had owned and run a flower shop for years. She was one of 13 kids in her family. We had to make a stop at L&M Fleet Supply for a battery, but told her we would most likely experience our luncheon at Pep’s Bake Shop later on.

We made our shopping trip from L&M Fleet Supply, to Walmart, and then to F&D Meats for some of our favorite brats. We traveled past the school on our way back to Chestnut Street and enjoyed seeing the murals of sports and Indian heritage.

We arrived at our luncheon destination at Pep’s, wearing our masks, and were seated at a soda fountain-like counter. We enjoyed chicken salad sandwiches and great conversation. The establishment décor also reminded me of our hometown businesses of the past, and a few from the present.

Maija had told me to stop by the Virginia Community Foundation to chat about the mining heritage of the Iron Range since I told her that I had written articles on mining for the Ely Echo. She also gave me the latest edition of Hometown Focus, which was about mining—good stuff.

Maija assured me that her husband, Jack, would be more than happy to show me some mine sites and educate me on some great heritage of the Range. I’m excited to take him up on it in the future.

My wife and I got to experience another great day in the Northland thanks to these great people of Virginia, and we got to meet new friends. And, for now, I have a working vintage typewriter. Thanks, Maija Biondich.

Tom Cooper has a cabin near Ely and resides in Huntsville, OH. This story was written using his vintage typewriter.

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