Those Magnificent Men in their Magic Stores.
The more I write about magic the clearer it becomes to me that in many ways it‘s the role of the Magic Store that fascinates me the most. Judging from the responses to my articles it seems that many of my readers also have many of their favorite memories carefully polished and centered on this same topic. I want to explore this area a little more fully because in the age of Internet shopping it seems to me we are at a crossroads. The honest to God magic shop is in danger of vanishing and if this happens we will have lost something very special
The very first magic shop I spent my pocket money in was a tiny, crowded magic oasis on the Tottenham Court Road in the very heart of London’s West End. It was here I made the mistakes we all make in our early purchases! Gradually the gentleman behind the counter started to educate my fledgling taste. The name of my first Saturday morning tutor was Jon Tremain and he began the lifelong process of finding a trick you can truly make your own.
To my delight I discovered that another magic shop called Davenport’s existed about five minutes walk from the Tottenham Court Road. This was like trading up from a Honda Civic to a Jaguar; much more space and way better equipped! It was here that Pat Page showed me that it wasn’t just the trick that mattered but what you did with it. To spend a morning watching Pat entertain his Saturday morning regulars was an education all its own. Next I discovered Ken Brooke and his Magic Place. I have written quite extensively about Ken and all that I learned from him. Suffice to say it was here I learned the skills that really helped launch me into my career in magic.
Upon arriving in Los Angeles there were two major choices when buying magic: ‘Hollywood Magic’ and Joe Berg’s store and of the two I infinitely preferred to visit Joe’s store, Here there was the additional benefit that if you hung around until Jules Lenier’s break you could accompany him to the coffee shop around the corner on Vine Street and talk magic with him drinking endless cups of black coffee, while Jules ate English muffins smothered in butter and sprinkled with salt. Which is not to downgrade how much fun it was to drop by Hollywood Magic and spend time with Mike Skinner.
Needless to say there were many other magic stores that I’ve enjoyed visiting over the years. When I was working in Chicago it was worth an extra day on my schedule to fit in a visit with Jay Marshall. Jay had a way of quietly passing on information that was as wonderful, quirky and unique as the man himself. I never once left Magic Inc. without at least one cool trick to add to my repertoire. How I wish I had had a chance to spend my teenage years with Jay as a teacher, would I have traded it for the wisdom and help I received from Billy McComb and Ken Brooke in those same years? No, but Jay is the only magician I have ever met who could take a trick McComb performed and improve it. ‘nuff said.’
Much of the best fun I have had in the magic world has occurred lounging around magic stores on a Saturday morning with the locals gathered to trade stories and tricks and the proprietor tried to balance making a living and making a magician. There is a very special fellowship about these shops that can never be replaced by ordering on the Internet. Convenient as virtual shopping on the Web is, there must always be room for the real thing. Support your local magic shop or it may disappear into some cosmic Toppit. In the words of Joni Mitchell “You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
Adding to the Internet sales game, I have some very fine products available on my website www.nicklewin.com