I just found this topic. I worked for Marvin"Buma" Burger, at "The House of Magic", 2025 Chestnut St. San Francisco, CA 95403 (I wrote all that because the address is forever imbedded!), throughout the 1970's, and opened the "Palace of Magic" on Pier 39 with him in 1979. The partners in the Palace venture were originally Marvin, Doc Albo, Charles Schulz (of "Peanuts" fame), and Mario Carrandi. The Palace was the tourist shop, and the "House" was the magic shop.
I grew up in that store, and Marvin was like a second father to me. It was there that I met so many magicians that I cannot begin to count them. Saturdays were the regular hangout days there. Vic Kirk, Woody Woodward (Why do they call you Henhouse? Cause my father took one look at me and he flew the coop!), Martin Lewis (who was living there at the time and worked the Magic Cellar all the time), Harry Anderson, who worked Fishermans Wharf with his wife Leslie, Paul Svengari, Penn and Teller, who had a year-plus run at the Phoenix Theater of Magic (a club I booked acts for until they came along!), on Broadway, the stripclub strip, where it was the only family theater for blocks, Palmer Tilden, who owned Sterling Creations, Jeff Busby (Yuck!), Matt Corin, long gone who knows where, but a great slieght of handster, Pete Biro, Emil Clifton, Rags the Clown, Nahmen Nissen, Jack McMillen, Gene Matsuura, Steve Kramer, Stan Kramien, Paul Gross, who owns his own shop in Fresno now and has for 25 years, Rich Marotta, comic madman, the list is endless, and those are just the regulars.
I remember seeing my first Cruise ship with Billy McComb, who stopped into the shop while in port. John Gaughan came in any time he was in town, and sometimes came just to see us. Al Goshman, Charlie Miller, again whenever a Cruise he was working stopped in SF. Mike Skinner, Larry Jennings, who tipped a coin trick because I gave him a prop he needed and coudn't find anywhere else (made me made because he fooled a whole table of magicians later with that trick, and I didn't get to feel the feeling of being fooled that badly!).
Burger specialized in "old stuff", and I know more about makers of magic than I could ever write here because of years with Marvin. P&L, Thayer, Bartyl, Conradi, Sherms, Martinka, Kanter, Ireland, Lloyd, Chambers, Martin, Davenports, Merv Taylor, and on and on. What fun we had. Practical jokes, magic like you'll never see again, one of a kind pieces, Okito props that made my heart stop. Wheeling and dealing, sessions that went on forever. Dinners, drinking until the wee small hours.
Kindnesses I will never forget, like a guy down on his luck. He couldn't come next door to Original Joes for drinks after we closed the shop, because he couldn't stand a round of drinks. Burger made him come along, then bought a round and said he had to go 'cause the wife was expecting him. Got out before the guy had to buy, just to put him at ease. Shook his hand on the way out and left me sitting with the guy. After he left, the guy (who had only met Marv 2 or 3 times) said to me, "what am I supposed to do with this?" Burger had slipped him a hundred bucks when he shook his hand goodnight. I saw that all the time! But boy, could Burger drive a deal!
Soft touch, hard businessman, a good combination. I learned the history of magic, of magic tricks, I learned slieght of hand, I learned about publishing, I met wonderful people, and I had the most fun I've ever had in all my life! Everything was a show! Guy comes in and says, "I know you won't have what I'm looking for but I'll ask anyway. I need a Thayer Locking Flap Card Box, the mahogany one?" Burger goes in "THE BACK ROOM"... There's banging, swearing, more banging, more swearing, silence, banging again. Burger comes out, sweat pouring off his brow, box in hand. Opens the box, velvet cloth inside, unwraps the velvet, there it is - Thayer! "I'll take it" says the guy, no price problems here. All of that from going out back, picking the prop up off the top shelf and dabbing a bit of water on his forehead!
Marv would cut you high card for a better price. I remember Busby swearing that he cheated, that he "did the Downs thing with the spread...", one night at the Magic Cellar. I challenged Busby to do it, since it hardly ever works anyway, and besides Marv was a prop guy, could hardly shuffle a deck! Busby missed in front of 5 or 6 guys, three times in a row! That was the best looking egg I've ever seen on someones face!
Burger bought every estate he could, but always waited for the call. He HATED the "ambulance chasers", as he called them. He WOULD send flowers, or call with his condolences, but he'd rather go broke than intrude on someones' grief - I loved him for that. I could write forever about that period of my life, I worked there 6 days a week, 51 weeks a year, and I wasn't there enough. There are million stories, characters galore. We got robbed once, and Marvin chased the guys down the street, they took his typewriter - The bullet hole may still be in the wall, I don't know!
We were trying to get out one Saint Patricks day, and a customer came in (not for magic, he was looking for a joke). The guy was drunk, and driving us crazy, wanted to see every gag in the store. He had a rum cake with him, Epplers Bakery had made it for him with a fifth of rum in it, he was proud to tell us. Marvin was going crazy with the guy, who had left the cake at one end of the counter, while he went to the other end to look at gags. I caught Marvs eye, then picked up the cakebox, turned it upside down and shook it like crazy! He about passed out laughing, and from that day on, anytime some one was bugging him, he would look to me and say "Paul, shake his cake will'ya?"
No there's nothing like a brick and mortar magic shop - the things I remember can't happen in cyberspace. And no Magic Shops are not obselete, not as long as I've got memories like these!