Abracadabra! Montgomery Magic Shop Is Saved

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 12, 2007

There is hope for hundreds of aspiring Washington area Houdinis.

Barry's Magic Shop, a Wheaton institution that appeared doomed to disappear as a victim of those not-so-magical words "eminent domain," has a new lease, literally.

The shop's owner, Barry Taylor, and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) announced a deal yesterday to relocate the shop from Georgia Avenue to 5544 Nicholson Lane in south Rockville, near White Flint Mall.

"It's fantastic," declared a buoyant Taylor, who couldn't resist doing a few magic tricks -- including pulling a dove out of a sack -- at the news conference announcing the deal. "Everything has finally come to a conclusion, and now we're ready to move in and make new magic happen."

The county will provide Taylor with $260,000 over five years to help relocate the shop.

"This is what government is about, really helping small businesses like this, businesses that could fall through the cracks," Leggett said. "For me, small businesses are the heart of a community and the heart of what folks love about Montgomery County."

Despite a passionate e-mail campaign and help from Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the future didn't seem so bright for the area's sole specialty magic shop a few months ago. The county had used eminent domain and spent nearly $1 million to acquire the building where Barry and his wife, Susan Kang, had operated for more than 30 years.

Officials planned to tear down the building to build a walkway as part of the effort to revitalize Wheaton's downtown.

After Leggett took office in December, there appeared to be a renewed effort to find a solution, said Tim McCrum, a shop customer and lawyer with Crowell & Moring LLP who had taken Taylor's case pro bono.

Leggett said it was clear from the outset there was great affection throughout the county for the magic shop, so much so that at a town hall meeting in Bethesda, the bulk of the concerns were not about traffic or crime but the fate of Barry's Magic Shop.

"People have memories when they come to our store and see our shows," said Taylor, who is shooting for a July grand opening. "It's not your average everyday experience. [The store] is a wonderland where things defy the laws of nature. And now we're going to make it bigger and better than ever."

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