Over the past several years, physical magic stores (or as they are called "Brick and Mortar" shops) have been slowly and quietly closing their doors as they make way for the online stores. Many of these Brick and Mortar shops have an online presence, but the closing of these stores has left a hole in the fabric of magic by eliminating the fellowship and physical presence of a dealer/demonstrator behind the counter who gives personal instructions and personalized customer service and who responds to what customers need and not necessarily what they want.
With the disappearance of the magic shops, no longer can we see what's new at the magic shop in our local community and see a live demonstration of that trick. We can no longer ask questions of a live person, one on one and get immediate answers or alternate handlings and/or presentations. Purchasing magic online has become easy and accessible to anyone and everyone with a credit card account. No one has to expend any effort to buy or learn magic. With magic shops there was an investment of your time not only to learn the trick but to physically drive, walk or bike to the magic shop during their hours of operation. One had to make a commitment whereas now most everything can be viewed, learned purchased and/or downloaded from the privacy of your home with a click of the mouse.
Not that this is a bad thing. i totally embrace online magic stores. There are a lot of proprietary magic items that one can only find online from around the world that aren't or can't be carried by your local magic store. A magic shop cannot stock everything in its inventory. But part of the beauty of a Brick and Mortar shop is the browsing...physically picking up the book, looking through its pages, seeing the props on the shelves, and holding the prop or gimmick in your hand before making the purchase. And of course there is the immediacy of owning the item right now. No waiting for your item to be shipped and you anxiously awaiting its arrival.
Robert Johnson sent an email suggestion to TheMagicWord@ScottWells.com requesting that I consider talking with Emory Williams about his traveling magic shop and the plight of the "Brick and Mortars". I thought to expand it to include a couple more perspectives: Top Hat Magic in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Denny & Lee Magic Stdio in Baltimore (and Las Vegas). Each has their own unique story and set of circumstances that reflect different, umm, shall we say "challenges" to their longevity.
And let me say that none of these select magic dealers (or any others) have paid for their ads herein or are otherwise sponsoring The Magic Word in any way other than offering their time and voices to this podcast. And for that, I thank them.
The time stamps for this podcast are as follows:
00:01:44 - Steve Lancaster, Top Hat Magic (Tulsa, OK), talks about the evolution of his magic shop from his humble beginnings in 1977 to his rise (and fall) as the largest costume retailer in Oklahoma to where he is today. The temporary Halloween stores that are only open for a month or so around October have wreaked havoc on his business and others across the country.
00:20:53 - Denny Haney, Denny & Lee's Magic Studio, started with a shop in Baltimore, MD then opened another shop in Las Vegas, Nevada with the intent and hope of ultimately moving out there. And now that his 18 year old pet pig, Baby, died in late February, he has less reason to stay in Maryland. Denny also has a lot of good advice on how magicians can learn magic and what's important to be a professional.
00:56:03 - Emory Williams, Williams Magic (Tucson, AZ), closed his Brick and Mortar shop in 2013 after 24 years in business. But he tried an innovative idea by taking magic "on the road" and direct to the customers with his 47 foot trailer full of 4,000 magic items. He talks about the challenges that Brick and Mortar shops face in their struggle for survival and longevity.
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