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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Flavors from the past... » » Magic Inc......Kind of sad... (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Chicagomagi
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Riverside, IL
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I should preface this but noting that I'm a Chicago transplant. I've only lived in Chicago the last 20 years so I didn't grow up with Magic Inc per se. And due to my late return to magic 4 years ago and the distance I live from Magic Inc, I've really only been there twice before.

I visited once a couple of years ago before Jay Marshall passed away and I was enthralled. The magician demoing was very engaging and was working with some grandparents and their grandson. He showed them (and me) tons of stuff and then took them into a quiet corner when they made their purchases and shared the secrets. Then, when they left, he introduced himself, spent a lot of time with me to understand my interests, and to recommend some books. The second time I went was last November when they celebrated their anniversary. Bill Malone had been advertised to make an appearance at 4pm and I got there at about 4:30pm, expecting there to be people lined up out the door. However, there were only 3-4 patrons in the shop and Jay Collen working behind the counter. Bill Malone hadn't shown up yet. After a few minutes everyone left except one other gentleman and it was just the two of us from then on. I hung around for about an hour and bought some items - largely because I just felt awkward hanging around. Jay entertained some folks who happened by the window of the shop and pulled them in and fried them with Ambitious Card and Sponge Balls but of course they didn't purchase anything. I finally couldn't wait for Bill Malone any longer and had to leave. I'm unsure if Bill even showed.

So anyway, yesterday I had my 7 y.o. son home on Spring Break. Rainy day in Chicago so I thought, "Hey let's hit a magic shop!" Now Midwest Magic is closer to home but I opted for Magic Inc because I thought the ambiance would appeal and I liked both demoing magicians on my previous trips there. I didn't tell my son where we were going and when we got there I have to say that I made him levitate without any apparatus when he read the name of the shop from across the street. "Wow, Magic Inc. - Cool!...etc."

First bad omen - There's a big For Sale sign on the exterior of the building stating that it's ready for multi-family development.

Second bad omen - We walk up to the door and the sign says CLOSED.

I do a double take because I'm pretty sure I know the hours. Reflexively I try the door and it's open.

3rd bad omen - The place is empty and it takes well over 5 minutes for someone to wander out from the back and help us.

He did appologize for the wait but never introduced himself. He tried to make small talk with my son - "I bet you're 8, what school do you go to?"... but no magic. I would've been happy if he'd broken out a Svengali deck and did a couple things for my son. The couple times I asked him to show us something it was "Well no I really don't do that, not sure how this works, (dumps out the stuff on the counter) See the gimmick is built like this so I think that it probably does this..."

4th bad omen - I asked for a few utility items - Jumbo Quarter, double facer replacements for McDonald's aces, a pull - Nothing in stock. Now that's okay but then I feel compelled to try and buy something. I have a Christmas Visa gift card that's burning a hole in my pocket plus some cash.

5th bad omen - I feel like we're just annoying the sales person.
Now I work in a corporate environment and have been around sales people for all my professional life. This guy blew it. I think I said repeatedly, "I want to buy something." I gave him every opportunity to make a sale. He could've easily made $60-70 sale for 30 min work - less time if he'd worked at it. No questions about my interests, no offer to show me anything. Because of the awkwardness of the situation I just scanned the cases and asked to see random items. It was a waste of time for both of us. (these are the same gripes I have about other local stores btw). I did everything but scream "SELL ME SOMETHING! I'm a fool and I have money and we want to be separated!!!!" Most of all I wanted someone to show my son a trick that I haven't already bored him with and to kindle the magical spirit that we all had/have when we're young. But no. Ahhhhh....such a sentimental fool am I.

We left with $10 worth of rope and a couple squeakers. My round trip commute was a little over 2+ hours with 30 or so painful minutes in the shop. My son basically asked why we wasted so much time and complained that he'd missed out on his computer time to go to the magic shop. Talk about opportunities lost.

I asked the guy about the sale of the building and he said he didn't know if or where they'd relocate but that one side of the family was forcing the sale. To me it seems like a done deal in the near future.

Sorry for the long rant. For those who've made it this far, you probably have some attachment to Magic Inc. For me, who really has no attachment to it, I felt I had to write this because I felt a feeling that I have only felt a couple times before. That pit in the stomach when I've lost something special or when I've visited a dying relative.

Now maybe I'm wrong, and hopefully so, and Magic Inc will resurrect itself somewhere and be a thriving concern and maybe I just caught them on an off day. But it sure didn't feel that way. Too many bad omens.

Kent
Julie
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As one who "grew up" with Frances and Ireland's @ 109 North Dearborn and as a young adult frequented Magic, Inc. I am very saddened to read this.

It is indeed the classic end of an era...

Julie Smile
Brian S. Tanner
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It is sad . Just as I remember looking forward to going to downtown Cleveland as a lad in the 1970's. Cleveland is about an hour and a half drive from my childhood home.

Back then there were actually several magic shops in the downtown area, along with a few in the surrounding suburbs.

I feel badly for all of the youngsters who may not get the chance of hanging out in a local magic shop. It's always been a great learning experience , as well as inspirational for me. Thankfully , there are still one or two shops left. I just hope that they can stay around.
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<BR>Judge:Insanity?
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gaddy
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Jeez, that IS a drag. Maybe I can get there before the doors close for good when I go back there in June.
*due to The Magic Cafe's editorial policies, words on this site attributed to me cannot necessarily be held to be my own.*
Tim Hannig
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Very sad. Used to love going there.

Midwest Magic is great though....
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Mark Holstein
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It is sad. . .but it proves the point that the traditional "brick & mortar" magic shops are so much more than the shelves of books, tricks and videos. Magic Inc. was the center of the Chicago magic universe. More correctly, Jay and Fran were that nucleus. The place was our clubhouse, our save haven. Jay and Fran were part of every graduation, engagement, wedding, birth and funeral. They were family.

You just can't get that on-line...
ViciousCycle
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Chicagomagi,
You should give the shop a second chance. Since the time of your posting, members of the Marshall family have returned to Chicago to revive the business. Sandy Marshall and his wife Susan are putting a lot of effort into the business. Original tricks are being constructed on site. There are books being published again, and talk of an original DVD. The place is better stocked than it's been in a long time, the people working in the store love magic, sales are up, and it's a fun place to hang around.

Magic Inc. doesn't want to leave the building their in; business real estate being the complicated thing that it is, they'll likely be forced to leave if the ownership of the building changes hands. But they don't plan to close the business down; they plan to move to another location.
Pete Biro
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Wow... Magic Inc., when Jay and Fran were there was my stopover in the MidWest... slept so many times in the Charlie Miller Suite and hung out more times than I can remember...
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
Floricanto
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I am a writer for blogcritics.org and wrote a piece on the turn around at Magic Inc., a national and Chicago institution and for me, a neighborhood fixture, as well as an interview with local Chicago magician Jay Collen.

http://blogcritics.org/archives/2007/07/24/135639.php

I hope folks will take a look, because I think the leadership of Sandy Marshall (Jay's son) has turned things around, and Jay Collen truly is a gentleman magician.

Floricanto
The Old Man
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Just wanted to confirm that things are greatly improved. I used to go there over 40 years ago when it was Ireland's and then when it was Magic Inc. Their website confesses some of the problems they had. I was visiting from San Diego last month and went with my 10 year old daugther and her 3 Chicago cousins--10, 10 & 7. We were greeted when we came in, as was everybody else who showed up. We were shown many tricks and spent about $150.

I particulary want to give credit to Pedro Nieves. He is a great performer and really had the kids in the palm of his hand. I gave each child a trick that I thought they could handle. Later that night we put on a magic show for the relatives. All the tricks killed and each kid only had about 30 to 60 minutes instruction and and hour to two to practice.

I think Magic Inc. can expect more visits in the future.
Brian Proctor
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Wow, your story really sounds just like the same situation with the shop we have here in oregon. No demos, no stocked items, no new products... I feel for ya.
gaffed
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Somewhat of a late reply here but then again, I just arrived a few days ago.

As I said in my intro I've not been to Magic Inc. since before Jay passed away. Always a smile on his face and a joke in hand! I remember Bruce Bernstein and Jim Krenz as the two that were always behind the counter and also produced a few commercial tricks of their own.

Eugene Burger stopped in quite often as he lives in Chicago and also Max Maven when he was in town. Attended quite a few magic lectures there all the way from Daryl, John Bannon, Eugene Burger, Simon Aronson, J.C. Wagner...well, the list just goes on and on.

As said, I've not been there for some years but for sometime now I've been receiving the postcard notifications of upcoming lectures. Just have to make some time to drop in again as it's only about a half hour drive, if that, from my home.
So, make no mistake about it! Magic Inc. is alive and doing well! Chicago would never be the same without it.

~gaffed~
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Ben Whiting
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Traverse City, MI
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Hello All!

I moved to Chicago about a year ago and always make a point to find the local magic shops when I arrive somewhere new; I've been in tons of shops from Martinka to Daytona Magic to Vienna Magic to Zauberladen (I was mentored by Jim Cellini in Europe so Zauberladen and Vienna Magic were kind of my home bases). Midwest Magic was great, but I had been hearing about Magic Inc. all my life and was excited about finally experiencing the ambiance.

As soon as I got there I was greeted by Sandy Marshall with a huge smile and a joke that made me pee a little. Though some disorganization made it obvious the store was trying to recover and rebuild from the disaster that was many years of bad management, the the love and pride of ownership was there. I sat on a padded stool for a couple of hours and watched Sandy, Jay, and Pedro fool me with NEW original Magic Inc. effects, and show me new twists on old classics. Magic Inc. became my new home and I made a promise to myself to do everything I could to help the shop regain the status it once had.

Now when I walk in Magic Incorporated I find an organized, clean, well-stocked (even the newest ellusionist and theory 11 stuff) shop. In the background I hear the classical sounds of Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Oscar Peterson, and others that give the shop an atmosphere that instantly puts you in a pleasant old-school kind of mood. Though it's not advertised, free coffee is a standard for those that want it. There are chairs there. Not just stools for watching demos but nice padded chairs in the front of the shop for regulars to sit and discuss/practice/share magic which they do quite often. Pedro is now the store manager and is there just about everyday, but always with new jokes. Every employee that demos there is a professional magician. Not only can you see the standard demo effects, but you can discuss and work on sleight of hands with people who are fluent not only its execution, but its presentation. They are all too happy to do it.

Sandy Marshall (Jay's son) is a multiple Emmy-winning producer who lives in New York, but he flies to the shop at least ONCE A WEEK to check up and work behind the counter himself (usually on the weekends) It's surreal sometimes to sit and listen to Sandy's stories of when Charlie Miller lived there and how the Charlie Miller Cups came to be, how great of an omelet Frank Garcia could cook, the infamous day Sandy got into Dai Vernon's pants (a story you HAVE to ask him about haha), and of course the wonderful and limitless stories of Jay Marshall and Lefty.

Magic Inc. no longer feels simply like a shop, but a magical and social experience that's addictive (just like the free coffee).

As for what's coming up, John Fisher will be coming all the way from England to Chicago just to lecture at Magic Incorporated on Cardini, Tommy Cooper, and Jay Marshall. Jay Sankey is lecturing on Nov. 14th.

The newest editions of Marlo's Revolutionary Card Technique and Cardially Yours are a must for any serious magician (Bill Malone ordered his the day they were released) and I know a third installment in the Marlo series is due to be released soon.

Magic Inc is also putting out new original effects! Marshall's 10-card fooled the socks off of John Racherbaumer at a recent convention and is less than 20 bucks. But along with a great up-to-date stock of today's magic effects, Magic Inc also has a TON of effects that are so old they're new again. If anyone remembers "The Loop" that Jay Marshall used to love to pitch (I think he pitched it on his greater magic series video) Pedro found all the parts to assemble them again and Magic Inc employees have begun to do so.

Behind the scenes, I think A LOT is cooking. I'm not sure about all the details but I've seen a lot of HD video cameras and have heard Pedro talking to "video editing guys" on the phone.

Even though the shop might not be at the magical/social standing it was when Jay Marshall was running things, it's definitely headed back in that direction.... I hope to see you at the oldest, still-family-run magic shop in North America soon!
Chicagomagi
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Riverside, IL
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All,
I haven't logged into the "Café" in weeks, and lo and behold I have an message today from Ben Ross. (Thanks Ben. I'll be sending you a reply shortly). Ben was asking me if I'd been back to take another look at Magic Inc. since my original post. In short, Ben has asked me, similar to his request to you above, to give the shop another shot. In fact I did attend Daryl's lecture last year, however, it was held at a bar down the street because Jay's library was "full of stuff for the upcoming auction." So, once again the bad omens were perpetuated for me.

To be honest, it's been 18 months since I started this thread and memory being what it is at 40+ I had to go back and re-read my original post before I responded to Ben's note. In doing so, and reading through all the posts here, I have to say that I'm very encouraged by the endorsements that have been thrown Magic Inc.'s way recently. I had never intended to trash Magic Inc. as it is an iconic institution and I have too much respect for the legacy of Jay and Francis to do any such thing. I was just so unbelievably blown away at how awful my experience was on that day in March '07.

Having relatives in Tucson Arizon, I've had the opportunity to take my children, wife, and extended family to Williams Magic on multiple occasions, where we are always thoroughly entertained and typically leave with several hundred dollars missing from our bank account. So, I do know the difference between a good and bad experience.

As I mentioned above, Magic Inc. is a pain for any of us South Siders to get to but I will certainly give them another shot. I'd love nothing more than to see Chicago continue to maintain vibrant and viable brick and mortar shops for us and for tomorrow's magi.

Lastly, thanks to those who've identified Pedro in the latest posts. Pedro was the gentleman who demo'd for me on my very first visit to Magic Inc. and who I alluded to in the original post. He and Jay Collen are terrific assets to the shop and I hope that they remain, and other high quality magicians join the staff.

Best of luck Magic Inc.
Kent
Ken The Klown
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Magic Inc. is one of the oldest shops in the country. It has been family owned and run for 80 years! 70 of those years were spent at the top of their game! That last 10 have been rocky and there is one reason for that. Frances Marshall was not at the helm! Everybody who knows Magic, Inc. knows that Fran was boss! With her passing the shop fell on hard times, organizationally. Jay admitedly was NOT the person to run the shop, so there was a revolving door of managers who had to deal with a multitude of issues. Enter Pedro...

Pedro ROCKS! He has really whooped the place into shape. I miss Jay and Fran, but their spirits still haunt the joint!!!

So I invite you all to put your money where you mouth is and pay a visit to one of the countries great magic shops. Also stop in at Midwest Magic, another great magic shop!
ChicagoMike
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I live just a few blocks from Magic Inc. I moved to Chicago when I was 23 (2003), an age where memories of my childhood magic hobby were lost in the shuffle. One day I came across Magic Inc. It was the first authentic magic shop I had ever been in. The minute I stepped through the door I had demonstrators showing me things with cards & coins I never thought were possible! I started coming around every weekend asking my fvorite demonstrator, Pedro Nieves, to show me what I should buy next. This grew into, as most of you know, a full blown obsession. More than a hobby. Now it is over 5 years later, Pedro is now in charge, and the shop couldn't be doing better. Most recently, I attended a sold out Jay Sankey lecture in the neighboring Magic Inc theatre. I visit the shop weekly and wouldnt be here without it. I feel very fortunate to live so close to one of our country's greatest magic institutions.
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