The Arcade Magic and Novelty Shop

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The Arcade Magic and Novelty Shop was located in the famous Arcade Building located at Yonge Street and Queen Street in Toronto, Canada. The shop occupied a small space on the north wall of the main floor of the arcade ground floor, and was often the first place many young magicians went to purchase their magic effects once bitten by the magic "bug".

Sophie Smith, along with her husband Harry, ran the shop beginning in 1942. Sophie continued to run the shop after Harry passed away on November 19, 1977 until possibly in the early 1980s.[1]

It began as the "Japanese Novelty Store" operated by Joe Whitlam some time prior to 1916 selling mostly puzzles. Then during the first World War, Bob Sherman helped import magic tricks. Other demonstrators over the years included Joe Dean, Bob Cook, Chris Gardner, Rex Slocombe, Harry Glbbs, Billy Arnott, John Giordmaine, Ross Bertram, Thomas Baxter, and Norman Houghton (then as Blois). Whitlam died in 1939 and Mrs. Whitlam passed away during the second world war, Harry Smith was called in to manage the store and in 1942 he bought the business and changed the name to "The Arcade Magic Shop."[2]

Notable magicians who frequented the shop were: Amazing Randi, David Ben, Thomas Baxter, Sid Lorraine, Elizabeth Warlock, Doug Henning, Dunninger, Blackstone Sr., Frakson, Houdini. [3][4]


Remembrances

Lloyd Wasser - Mr and Mrs Smith ran the Arcade Magic Shoppe when I was a teenager in the 1970s and seemed like they'd been there literally forever) would often attempt to push the most basic effects on you when you first visited the shoppe (for example, the infamous plastic cup and ball trick). But once you exhibited any sort of real interest or dedication to the art of magic, they wouldn't hesitate to show you the effects that required more serious rehearsal time/practice.

This was the place to purchase a set of linking rings, to obtain flash paper or handkerchefs for your magic act, or to check out some of the latest products from various magic manufacturers across the United States and Canada.

I remember traveling downtown by TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway train in the mid-1970s with friends Ari Soroka and John Thompson, to buy supplies for our fledgling acts, and to hang out at the Arcade and watch the proprietors demonstrate magic effect after magic effect.

The Arcade Magic Shoppe closed down in the early 1980s I believe. Today, the most popular venue in Toronto that is the closest to what the Arcade Magic Shoppe represented would have to be The Browser's Den of Magic on Eglinton Avenue West at Bathurst Street in midtown Toronto.



References

  1. Broken Wand, Linking Ring, Feb. 1978
  2. Harry Smith and Toronto's Arcade Magic and Novelty Store by Sid Lorraine
  3. The Amazing Randi, Toronto Star, Saturday, August 23,1986M
  4. Conjuring, James Randi (1992)
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