“It’s Fun to Be Fooled, but More Fun to Be the Fooler.”
Eagle Magic Store is the oldest magic store in the country, and has been in business for over 100 years. Larry Kahlow has stood behind its counter for 51 of them.
“My mother frequented a beauty shop not far from Eagle Magic back during the ’50s,” said Larry. “She first took me here on the bus when I was ten years old. In a sense I never left.
“At the time Eagle Magic was owned by Doris Davids, who took over from its founder Colin Pentz in exchange for taking care of him in his old age. And she did. Pentz had always employed women, who he believed were more trustworthy than men.
“Whenever I returned to the store I’d find Doris and her two employees, also women, sitting in the back room playing cards, drinking beer, and eating cheese sandwiches. Back when magic tricks were mostly sold in gas stations where you were lucky if the clerks even knew where they were stocked, Doris always took the time to teach me magic tricks. I still teach them to my customers the way Doris showed me.
“I began working at Eagle Magic in 1970 and bought the business six years later. You look as long as you like for a doctor or a lawyer or a milkman who can say they’ve gone to work seven days a week for half a century, but only a dinosaur like me can make a claim like that.
“I’m no longer doing this because I need the money. I do it because I love the art of magic and want to keep it alive. That was much easier back in the ’80s and ’90s, when kids wanted to show off the tricks they had learned at family barbecues and ice cream socials. Nowadays video games are a real challenge to getting kids out of the basement. But once they see, they all want to learn.
“I’ve taught magic to people of all ages. It’s a skill I’ve honed down over time. Adults often want to complicate things, anticipate things, and take my instruction without really understanding what I’m saying. But kids will let themselves get lost in my magician’s patter. And they don’t just learn the method. They genuinely appreciate the effect.
“Oftentimes parents and grandparents will tell me their kid has been asking to come to Eagle Magic for years. And I’ll say ‘Oh, you rotten person! Why didn’t you bring them in sooner?’ Of course I’m only joking. I’m not actually a curmudgeon. I always celebrate the arrival of a new magician to my store, where they won’t learn just one trick. I’ll teach them an entire act with a beginning, a middle, and an end.”
Larry showed me three tricks that can comprise a novice magician’s act. A coloring book, which could be completely colored in as easily as Larry could snap his wrist; an unassuming metal cap which transmuted nickels into dimes with a rap on the counter; and a handkerchief, which was either yellow or red depending on how recently Larry had touched it.
I took this all in without really understanding what Larry was doing, needlessly complicating the demonstration by trying to anticipate what he might do next. The store’s resident rabbits and doves, even though they had probably materialized out of a top hat only the day before, seemed to grasp Larry’s legerdemain better than I had.
“All of these tricks are good tricks,” said Larry, “because I’m the one recommending them. With some practice you’ll enjoy the real fun of actually fooling your parents, neighbors and friends. Eventually you’ll be able to learn more advanced tricks to become a real magician.
“What is a magician? It is someone who has the ability to see the future. A magician invented the door bell, the pacemaker, the motion picture. A magician is the entrepreneur, the alchemist, the wizard. They have always been whispering into the ears of the people in charge.”
Eagle Magic Store is located at 11995 Co Rd 11 in Burnsville. You can learn more about Larry and America’s oldest emporium of wonders at eaglemagicstore.com.
By David Scheller