Great magic shops - Past and present

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby Mike Remington » 09/19/08 10:31 AM

Ive enjoyed the Al Cohen column in the magazine, the stories about Tannens in the Magic Newswire interviews, and the old Ken Brooke thread here. I would be interested in other stories about magic shops and dealers.

Over the last 25 years, I have had jobs that allowed me to live and travel in Europe, North America, and the Asia Pacific region. When possible, I go to magic shops in towns that I am visiting.

My two favorite shops were Alan Alans Magic Spot in London in the eighties and Denny & Lees in Baltimore. Both had very knowledgeable owners and others working at or visiting the shops, good selections of books, and great stories and advice. Both Alan and Denny were able to convince me to buy more than I intended when I walked in, but I have used a much higher percentage of their recommendations than from elsewhere. Both shops, in different ways, were a bit like pig pens.

Another interesting shop is Magic Land in Tokyo Like the Magic Spot it is a bit of a disorganized mess, but always has interesting things. Even though I have been there many times over the last 20 years, I still usually get lost trying to find it.

Mephisto in Kortrijk, Belgium had a good stock of books and other things for such a small town. It was worth the drive from Brussels when I was living there. My first convention was one of theirs where I got to see people like Rocco, Vito Lupo, Christian Chelman, Alpha, and others. I havent been there since the late 1980s and would be interested in if it is still operating as a shop.

Paris always had good shops when I was going there in the eighties and nineties. I liked Guy Lore and Mayette Magie Moderne. The old Academie de Magie, before it moved and became a museum, was a very good shop. The museum is interesting.

In London, I only went to International Magic Studio a couple of times, but would never miss one of their Rons days in December while I was living there.

Magic Inc used to be a favourite as well. I was disappointed the last time I was there, but have heard it has improved after the family took back management of it. Does anyone have any input on that?

A couple of great shops I wish I could have gone back to Pavels in Geneva and Philadelphia Magic.

Finally, a question for those older than me who know London. What was the joke and magic shop near the British museum in 1966? That was my first visit to a magic shop at the age of ten.

I would be interested in stories and recommendations of brick and mortar shops. I try to visit Sean Taylors shop whenever I have time in Sydney, and always try to make sure I get to Baltimore and Dennys whenever I return home to the US and visit the East Coast.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/19/08 10:47 AM

Davenport's was opposite the British Museum in the 1960s.
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Postby Naphtalia » 09/19/08 11:29 AM

Orange County California turns out to have a number of magic shops -

There's one in Disneyland on Main Street and a Houdini cart in the "Downtown Disney" area in front of the park. There's one in Knott's Berry Farm. There's one in the Adventure City/Hobby City Complex called the Magic Bug.

My two favorite shops are Magic Galore and More located in Westminster in a bowling alley. It's run by Ken Sands who manages to attract some of the most positive people I've ever met. In Anaheim is Best Magic, Costumes and Novelties where I work along with a group of very talented folks.

Hope that helps give you a few more destinations for your travels.

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Postby Randy » 09/19/08 06:12 PM

And to follow on the tails of Naphtalia's message, you might as well drive north about 30 miles from Orange County to visit the famous and long-standing "Hollywood Magic" on Hollywood Blvd in, you guessed it...... Hollywood. If walls could talk...
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Postby Mike Remington » 09/19/08 11:01 PM

Thanks Richard - It must have been Davenport's - My father was working nearby at the time.

I have been to Hollywood Magic a few times. The experience at any shop depends on who is behind the counter and in the shop at the time. I have had some interesting trips there, but the last time, several years ago, the people working there spent most of their time complaining that they were underpaid. I would be interested in hearing some of the stories from the walls.
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Postby Mike Remington » 09/19/08 11:08 PM

Alan Alans Magic Spot was a very dirty joke and magic shop. Seeing Alan with the arrow through his head and setting off a bang whenever he gave change did not give first timers an idea of the quality of the magic and advice available there.

Alan was very selective in the books that he sold, only selling things he thought had high quality material. The majority seemed to be written by Ganson, Kaufmann or Lorayne. Until his last months before retirement, he would not let me look at any book before buying. His way of selling was to talk about what was in the books and demonstrating things from them. Others in the shop would chime in. Michael Vincent was often there and also ogave good advice.

On a trip to London in the eighties, I asked for advice on what my next card book should be after having studied the Amateur Magicians Handbook and the Royal Road. This led to a long discussion with Alan and a couple of guys in the shop about the main paths - Vernon, Marlo and Lorayne. Someone soon said Marlo was great for the future, but not the next step. People were talking about and demonstrating the types of things found in various Lorayne and Vernon books. I left there with both Close Up Card Magic and More Inner Secrets of Card Magic books I still enjoy going back to and which have effects I still use.

If the shop was not crowded, most purchases came with advice such as certain tricks or essays to check out in the book or a variation on an effect. When I bought a cheap thumb tip there, I received a rant about how most magicians (even some on television) didnt know how to use one without the unnatural act of sticking their thumb in their fist. He gave me a lesson on his way of doing it and had me try it a few times before I left the shop.

The stories were always great there. One of his favorite topics of discussion was Slydini.

I was sorry to see him retire. Is he still around?
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Postby LaMont » 09/19/08 11:21 PM

Next time you pass through Arizona you have to make a stop at William's Magic and Novelties in Tucson. The Williams are great people and support the magic community 100%. They have a great store and a large inventory of magic tricks, DVD's, books, magazines, and special props.
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Postby David Thomas » 09/20/08 12:17 AM

I have not been to a whole lot of magic shops, but my favorite around me is the magic apple and my favorite elsewhere is Hank Lee's in Boston.
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Postby Magic Newswire » 09/21/08 01:44 PM

Eugene Burger's discussion about the many shops once in Chicago made me yearn for earlier days as well.
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Postby Naphtalia » 09/22/08 04:18 PM

Magic Newswire wrote:Eugene Burger's discussion about the many shops once in Chicago made me yearn for earlier days as well.

Amen! I have a couple of kids who are regulars in the shop where I'm working who have given up on buying on the internet. As one said, "The stuff is cheaper on the internet, but they'll let me buy anything. You guys only want me to buy good stuff that's right for me. That's cheaper in the long run."

I know our philosophy is to make sure that people get material appropriate to their age, interest and experience. Our favorite moment is when someone comes back in with a trick they've been practicing and shows us. Then it's time for helping them make things better - for bouncing around ideas.

I loved Eugene talking about Joe Berg telling him the things he should not buy. I've had folks direct me away from one item to something that was a better fit for me. I've gotten to do the same for others.

The internet comes with video clips. Brick and Mortar come with instructions, lessons and support.

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Postby Steve Bryant » 09/22/08 04:37 PM

Speaking of the passing of brick and mortar shops, are dealers in general still printing large catalogs? These were dream books in the old days, but not needed so much in the days of online lists. The last I purchased was a large and beautiful catalog from Owen Brothers.
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Postby DomC » 09/23/08 07:41 AM

While attending the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale in the early '70s, I frequently visited Paul Diamond's Magic Shop in the old Sears Town Plaza off North Federal Hwy. It was touted as, "The World's Most Unusual Store" and I met many accomplished prestigitators (Duke Stern, Connie Hayden, Jerry Mentzer to name a few). I would spend all my spare time and change in that place and Paul would show me coin and card effects to no end. I bought my first Scotch and Soda set there and still have it. Those were truly magical days long gone but not forgotten. I left school in '72 but I would visit Paul whenever I could until 1980 when I joined The Navy. I don't know when the shop closed down.

In 1983, while stationed in Groton, Conn.(I was a submariner), I visited Hank's Magic Factory in Medford, Mass. I believe Hank still sells a 600 page catalog for $19.95. I also visited Tannen's Magic in New York. Those were magical mystery tours too.

Nowadays, I visit Harry Allen's shop in Daytona Beach. A quaint little shop nestled in a block of tourist trappings on Beach Street, it is like walking back into fantasy land. Harry and Irv put on the 3 day "Festival of Magic" annually and it never fails to be successfully eventful. So if you are ever in Central Florida, head on over to Daytona Beach and drop in on Harry &'ll have a blast!

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Postby Dick Christian » 09/23/08 08:23 PM

My personal favorite, before I settled near Washington, DC in the early 70's and discovered Al's Magic Shop at its original location at 12th & Pennsylvania, was Kanter's in Philadelphia where I spent many a wonderful Saturday afternoon in the late 1940s - early 1950s. Wish I still had the old catalog with photos of magicians -- must have been 30 or 40 of them -- on the cover.

Another one that you never forget once you've been there is Chanin's, also in Philadelphia. I was last there in the early 1970s and I think there were still old newpapers from the 30s and 40s lying around.

Sad that so many have been replaced with drop shipping mailboxes on the Internet.
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Postby David Thomas » 09/23/08 09:08 PM

Can anyone name what their favorite now closed magic shop in greater LA area was? So many magic shops have closed, from what I have been told, there used to be around 20 magic shops in Hollywood alone! Man, now there's about 2 decent ones around me now.....what a shame...
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Postby The Magic Apple » 09/23/08 11:33 PM

2 Decent ones?? TWO???
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Postby David Thomas » 09/24/08 12:14 AM

Uhhhhhhh? Huh? What you only want there to be one? :)
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Postby Kent Gunn » 09/24/08 01:19 AM

Magic shops . . . these are all gone.

Buma's House of Magic on Chesnut St. in S.F. was a GREAT shop. Paul Freakin' Chosse behind the counter.

The Fun Shop in Ogden Utah, Marvin Lovestedt behind the counter ca 1972. Marvin got me started in magic. If you're ever unlucky enough to be in Ogden, he's still doing magic at a place called Shaver Mart in Ogden, go see him.

Loftus Magic and Novelty in the shadow of the LDS Temple in Salt Lake, had Earl Nelson behind the counter. Earl seems to have fared a little better in the magical universe than Marvin.

Those were magical places.

Harry and Irv still run Daytona Magic in Florida. I've spent way too many hours and dollars in that haven for wayward magicians.

Joe Pon runs the best magic shop in SF; Misdirections. That's where I now waste my Sundays, when I can.
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Postby El Mystico » 09/24/08 05:40 AM

I used to rate Davenports when it was by the British
Museum...but it does seem to have gone downhill since its move to Charing Cross. The service is not what it was.
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Postby Mike Remington » 10/07/08 11:14 AM

The remarks on Chanin's and Kanter's in Philadelphia reminded me of the strangest magic shop that I ever went to. This shop was on Frankford Avenue under the El tracks. ... owner.html
I went there in the early 1990's. The only books on his shelves were new copies of the Greater Magic Library (the 5 volume 1956 reprint of Greater Magic.) The owner said that his father had owned a multi-storey magic shop in center city Philadelphia and that he now had something like 17 garages, basements and storage units stuffed with the inventory from when he lost the lease on short notice. I wonder what happened to all of that.

Kent - My only trip to Ogden, about 40 years ago helped develop my interest in magic. I saw my father's cousin perform and got my first Svengali deck from him.

Harry Allen's shop sounds good - He had a dealer table at a convention I attended in Singapore 3 or 4 years ago and I enjoyed talking to him there.
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Postby MagicBilly » 10/07/08 02:22 PM

"Closed magic shops in L.A"

I found the magic bug that bit me implanted a chip that booted up each Saturday directing me towards Burbank and TC's Mind over Magic.
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Postby Ray T. Stott » 10/07/08 04:46 PM

Magic Fun Shop - Under the El on 4455 Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia.

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Postby Tony Tuccillo » 10/07/08 10:35 PM

Dom C mentioned Daytona Magic which is great in person or via mail order. Saturday of course is a fun day to hang out there.

Hollywood, Florida is home to a hidden gem owned by Jack Maxwell called The Wizard's Apprentice ( Nestled in the Art Deco district of Hollywood, Jack has the best inventory of books in the state. He's a working pro who spends a lot of time and money making magicians of all levels comfortable in his shop.

He is constantly holding lectures and teach-ins and the shop seems to be a hangout for many working pro's. The last two times I was there, Gazzo was in the shop working on a laptop.

In Phoenix, Arizona (Scotsdale actually) Barry Schorr has Presto Magic Studio ( Barry has access to a lot of pre-owned effects and books and is a treasure trove information. I'm in Arizona several times a year and always get over to Barry's for an afternoon of magic talk. Of course he always has 'just acquired' something I've been looking for which means my luggage is quite a bit heavier on my return flight!
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Postby Ray T. Stott » 10/07/08 11:16 PM

[color:#333399][size:11pt]Hello Tony,
I visited your blog and found the PP explanation of the current financial crisis at the same time amusing, succinct and compelling in its accuracy.[/size][/color]
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Postby Bob Postelnik » 10/09/08 01:40 AM

Does anyone remember Magic FX on Glendale Avenue in Glendale, CA. It was run by Peter Louis who, beside being a magician, was also an actor who had small parts in a number of popular TV programs at the time; Babylon 5, Seinfeld, etc.

Peter was a big guy, over six feet tall, bald and about 300 pounds who rode a GullWing motorcyle to the shop every day no matter what the weather.

Beside the magic supplies that he carried all year long, in October his shop was converted into a Halloween supplies store for the entire month and he sold costumes and rubber masks, no magic. He said that he made enough money in one month to cover his expenses for the entire year.
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Postby Tom Frame » 10/09/08 03:23 PM

In 1977, I visited Hollywood for the first time. I was a 17 year old narcissistic punk who had been bitten by the magic bug three years earlier. After ambling up and down Hollywood Boulevard, enjoying the free entertainment provided by the hookers, junkies and con men, I discovered a small door, which may or may not have had advertising signage. But the door beckoned me, so I opened it and stepped inside. I encountered a long flight of stairs that seemed to go straight up, and up, and up.

Upon reaching the summit, I walked into a dusty, disorganized, poorly-lighted room filled with magical wonders. The only other person in the room was a rather shabbily dressed, older, balding gentleman. He graciously introduced himself as Joe Berg. I had never heard of him. I recall wondering why he stocked so many Ultra Mental decks.

We engaged in a lively, stimulating magical conversation for well over an hour. I had him all to myself. He asked me lots of questions and showed a genuine interest in me and my magical aspirations.

I bought an Ultra Mental Deck and he taught me a presentation called the Invisible Deck, by some guy named Eddie Fields, who I had never heard of. I was blown away!

He encouraged me to keep studying and practicing. He wished me luck. We shook hands and said goodbye. Somehow I avoided falling down the stairs as I left.

Joe and the shop are now gone. But I will always remember that wondrous, magical encounter. And I will always regret that I didnt ask him more about himself.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/10/08 12:11 AM

The first magic shop I ever visited was Brownies Magic and Hobby Shop at 2023 Pacific in my hometown of Long Beach, California. Herb Brownie Brown was the shop owner and a local professional magician. His shop had clubs for all sorts of interests including a club he was just starting called the Long Beach Mystics. I joined immediately. Years later I would be the first Mystic to become a full-time professional, but others followed over the years including Jim Hamilton, Paul Fidler, Stan Allen, Les Arnold, Randy Pryor, and others.

When I got older I took the bus to Hollywood to Joe Bergs Magic Shop at 6560 Hollywood Blvd, upstairs. It was a small rat hole of a shop with Joe running it and his son Ronnie driving Joe, and everyone else, crazy.

Like the real magic shop it was, it was not often frequented by civilians like the street level shops were. Joes was a shop for the trade. There were dozens of pictures on the walls of the many professionals Joe had known over the years including one framed letter from a teenager in Nebraska ordering something and signing the letter Carsoni. He later grew up and became a late-night television icon, but never lost his love of magic.

Visits to Joes were great fun as a kid and later, as a young adult working at being a professional, visits often had their own rewards. I remember being there one Saturday, talking to Kirk Kirkham and Lou Lancaster about John Calvert when John walked through the door and surprised us all. John always had good timing.

Then there was the conversation I listened to between a number of well-posted pros and dealers all arguing about Kuda Bux and his X-Ray Eye act. They just couldnt see how he could get the peek. Everyone was fooled.

Joe had moved his shop from Chicago to Hollywood and a lot of guys from Chicago moved to LA too and hung around JoesHerb Boren and Johnny Platt immediately come to mind.

While Joes place didnt have the splash and flash of what was then known as Bert Wheelers Hollywood Magic, it had Joe, a storehouse of knowledge. Once, when I was 15 and in the store with my scarce, hard-earned money Joe came up to me and told me he had that book I ordered. I didnt remember a thing about ordering a book, but Joe pushed the sale on me and almost reached into my pocket and took out $15, shoving Greater Magic into my hands, which became one of my great treasures. Thank you, Joe.

Years later I stopped by to drive Joe over to the local SAM meeting and he tossed me a small red wool bag. Alexanderheres something youll appreciate - Paul Rosinis Egg Bag. His son was in last week and sold it to me. And I have for decades. It was a surprise gift from Joe at a time when magic collectibles had little to no value and were collected by people who loved them and magics history, not because they had investment potential.

Once, after a lecture in his shop, Joe taught me a variation on the Downs Palm that added nicely to the Misers Dream that Frakson taught me. I only learned later that what Joe taught me was unpublished at the time.

While there were a number of other shops in the Los Angeles area, the only other one I frequented with regularity was Owen Bros Magic then in Alhambra, now known as Owen Magic Supreme. The 333 South San Pedro Street address had closed before I had the chance to visit it, but the Chapel Street shop in Alhambra (long before the move to the current building in Azusa) was always fun. It was owned by Les and Gertrude Smith and the shop wasn't set up for retail sales, but if Les liked you hed invite you into the back where the magic was made. I'd usually see Carl Owen there turning out perfect sets of Billiard Balls with a French polish as only he could. While others spent more time there, I was sufficiently known to Les and Gertrudes dog Robin that I could just walk into to the back and visit when I came off the road. I was always surprised when Robin remembered me. Maybe he knew I liked dogs. Sometimes Les would tell me what he was working on and for whom, and sometimes he wouldnt. He was a great character and I remember him always enthusiastic about what he was building.
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Postby Lee Almond » 10/10/08 04:35 PM

Thanks for sharing the memories David, great stuff. I was just in Stevens less than two hours ago. Good to see Joe and some friends again. And yes I did buy some magic, love the place I've been going there since 1973-74. I have had the pleasure of seeing some "names" in magic walk through the doors at Stevens. The store is only 15 minutes away from home and I love to hear Joe tell stories.
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Postby Tortuga » 10/27/08 05:09 PM

As a kid growing up I used to treasure a visit to Devoe Magic Den in downtown St. Louis, MO. Gene Devoe was a true master of the art and could speak on everything from close-up to stage magic. He also knew a lot of professional magicians who used to stop in to the shop when they were in town. I recall looking at a book by Alton Sharpe when he happened to phone Gene. What a coincidence! Alton had lived in St. Louis and was a great friend of Gene's. I bought the book! Gene did a marvelous stage act, featuring the 'aerial fishing' routine. He would 'catch' fish in mid-air, in the audience, etc. and they would end up swimming in a glass bowl. In his hands it was a miracle.

The biggest honor of my short-lived magic career was being named the first recipient of the Gene Devoe Youthsayer Award, back in the '80's. I was 16 I think. Gene himself handed it to me. He is long gone now, but his memories and the help that he gave to anyone who was truly interested in learning lives on.
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Postby DrDanny » 10/27/08 07:09 PM

I'll second nomination for Devoe. I grew up in St. Louis, and have fond memories of Gene's shop, both downtown and later in Maplewood, where John Mendoza eventually took it over. Gene was a gentleman, and a gentle man, and I've yet to see anyone perform a better color-changing knives routine than his.
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Postby JordanB » 10/27/08 07:24 PM

The first magic shop that I ever went to was Magicland in Dallas. My dad used to take me when I would come from Amarillo to visit him in the mid 1980's.

When I got seriously interested in magic in my late teens/early twenties it was a constant hangout. The owner at the time, Mark Roberts, and demonstrator, Mike Williams, were both great mentors and friends.

I was sad to see it go in 2004, my heart sunk when I drove up and saw the closed signs on the door.
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Postby Steve Hook » 10/28/08 05:43 PM

Martinelz Magic Mart was run by Martin and Maria Elz from the '50s to the '80s in what is now trendy downtown St. Petersburg, FL.

Martin was on the cover of the Linking Ring in (October?) '83 and the Tampa Bay Magic Club is still affiliated with Martinelz IBM Ring 42.

Steve Bryant commented a while back that this was the first magic shop he visited, in '58.

I still have the first trick I bought there in '61, Grant's "Moxahala", but what pains me to this day is that I didn't buy SECRETS OF A PUERTO RICAN GAMBLER on a visit back to the shop in '82.

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Postby Tortuga » 10/28/08 09:11 PM

Dr. Danny, were you active in the St. Louis magic scene in the late 70's,early 80's? Perhaps our paths crossed. I was active in the IBM and did many stage and close-up shows around the area.
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Postby Mark Paulson » 11/03/08 09:51 PM

Seattle's Market Magic, located in historic Pike Place Market, is the only brick and mortar magic shop in the greater Seattle area. It's an awesome old shop filled with old posters of magicians. Unfortunately, I don't get the chance to go there as often as I used to, but if you make it to Seattle, it is worth visiting.
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