Friday, July 28, 2006
Johnny Thompson, Banachek, and Dexter.
That's right, everybody--there's a new kid on the block. My good friend Dexter has now joined the Hocus Pocus Team. Dexter has been a good friend for a many number of years. You may recognize his name as we have marketed many of his effects (which were best sellers, by the way). He was busy last year and the beginning of this year as a magic consultant for Criss Angel's Mindfreak series, which we hear will begin another new season at the beginning of 2007. With the addition of Dexter, our crew here is more knowledgeable than ever before! When you call, be sure to welcome Dexter and introduce yourself. If you are wondering about Jeremy, he is still here at Hocus Pocus as Inventory Control Manager of our warehouse, keeping tabs on the vast inventory that keeps changing and growing. He absolutely loves his new position and is doing a wonderful job!
Wednesday, I had a short visit from Robert Baxt, where he was on his way to the Bay Area for both lecturing and performing. He and I are working on two new projects which will be announced in the very near future. We're putting the final touches on them, so stay tuned to the web site for more information. Robert never ceases to amaze me with his creativity and clever routining, and you'll be able to reap the rewards.
It's been extremely busy as you can tell from the photos below. We had to hire two new people temporarily in the warehouse to take care of the extra load. It's been a record shipping week with 2 UPS deliveries in the morning, 2 deliveries in the afternoon, and 2 pickups in the afternoon. This plus the USPS is picking up twice a week as well. Just take a look at the videos alone going out one day this week after our inventory blowout sale!
Videos and boxes as far as the eye can see!
An early morning shipment.
The heat here has broken all records this year. The average has been between 117 to 119 for the last fourteen days! Even the air conditioners can't cool the place down below 85 degrees! The big news here is that a "cooling trend" is coming in, making the heat more bearable in the double digits again, with an expected high of 96 degrees on Sunday. WE CAN'T WAIT!
On the home front, my eldest son, Cole, leaves for college in just three short weeks! Betty is preparing for his departure by placing "For Rent" signs outside of his room. Ha Ha. Of course, Max has already gotten dibs on Cole's room and is already packing his things up. You'd think the both of them were leaving home! My oldest daughter, Renee, is moving back to Fresno after graduating college. In just 2 weeks, she'll be back home renting a brand new and very nice apartment, and she's taken a management position with Gottschalks (a California and Oregon chain of department stores). She's extremely excited about her new position and being close to family again, and we are as well.
So, wherever you are, I certainly hope it's cooler than it is here. If not, be sure to stay cool however you can and until next time,
Monday, July 17, 2006
You may recall several weeks ago that I mentioned that a local newspaper reporter was coming to do a story on Hocus Pocus. It ran as a feature article in last Sunday's paper and we posted it below for you to read!
A Fresno store sells its tricks worldwide.
Veteran magician Tony Blanco manages the Hocus Pocus Magic Shop, which supplies some of the world's most famous magicians.
By Rick Bentley / The Fresno Bee
(Updated Sunday, July 16, 2006, 7:09 AM)
For years, local amateur magicians and professional prestidigitators from around the country and around the world have crowded into the small Hocus Pocus Magic Shop in Fresno.
The unassuming building, just a cloud of dust away from busy McKinley Avenue, has served as both the base for a hefty mail-order business and busy in-store traffic.
The shop's owner, Paul Gross, is able to pull a dove out of thin air. That skill didn't help him when he had to figure out a way to squeeze one more magic book, prop or client into the shop's small space.
The need for more space comes from the growth of the business every year. What started as a small shop for local magicians and consumers has grown to an internationally-known business.
"There are magicians from Europe who will take a day or two when they come to the United States to make a trip to Fresno," Gross says. "We have magicians from all over the United States visit all the time."
That long-distance appreciation coupled with local interest and a booming Internet business has made Hocus Pocus a major hub for the world of magic.
Magicians outside the central San Joaquin Valley found out about the local store through advertisements in national magic magazines or through word-of-mouth praise from the tight-knit magic community.
"Over the past 10 years, Hocus Pocus has become one of, if not the, biggest magic dealers in the country. It has become a gathering place for magicians, but not necessarily in person. Most is done through the Internet," says Louis Hirshorn, a Los Angeles resident and amateur magician. "It is sad to see all of the magic shops that are either downsizing or going out of business.
"It is great to see that Paul's shop is growing."
Hirshorn, who works in the music licensing department at Disney, has been ordering magic items from Gross for years. He explains that one of the big reasons Hocus Pocus has grown is the professional way the company does business, combined with some of the best customer service Hirshorn ever has seen.
What started out as a business relationship between Hirshorn and the Hocus Pocus staff has turned into a close friendship. On a recent buying trip here, Hirshorn ended up staying at Gross' home during the weekend visit.
"They are part of my magic family," Hirshorn adds.
While in Fresno, Hirshorn got to see the new site for Hocus Pocus. A building was found just a few blocks from the previous site. Gross moved his shop — lock, stock and wand — to the new location two months ago. He had been in the previous location for 10 years.
The size of the new building is as different as a card trick is from making an elephant disappear.
"We wanted to move a few years ago, but the landlord didn't want us to go. We stayed for a while, but the space just was too small," Gross says.
The previous location was 3,800 square feet. Gross moved the business into that location in 1998 from a shop that was only 650 square feet. Both of the previous homes for Hocus Pocus could be placed inside the new shop that covers 10,000 square feet.
A factor in the growth has been the recent surge in interest in magic. Large touring shows and television specials featuring the likes of David Copperfield, David Blaine, Criss Angel, and Lance Burton have sparked interest in magic and illusions.
The larger shop space also matches the ever-expanding love Gross has for the world of magic. He started as a performer 45 years ago after his grandfather took him to see a vaudeville show at Fresno's White Theater. His greatest inspiration was local magician Don Olson, who worked with Houdini and Harry Blackstone Sr.
Gross opened his first magic store in November 1974. His clients were local magicians who would come by to see the latest card trick or new illusion. There's less off-the-street traffic these days. The doors are open to those who want to buy the latest magic trick. But it's necessary to call in advance because most of the day is devoted to filling mail orders. By late afternoon, all of that day's shipments have been sent out the door.
But there are those who just stop by the store. Just recently, the road crew for Ozzfest stopped by to purchase items to be incorporated into the traveling rock show.
The mail-order side is the lion's share of the shop's business. Items get shipped to the four corners of the planet because of Internet shopping.
Gross estimates that 38% of the shop's business goes to overseas buyers.
What has attracted the booming interest by so many professional and amateur magicians are the huge shelves packed with a wide assortment of magic items: The Face by Borodin, The Breath of Fate, The Super Chair and The Black Widow Fire Purse.
If you have to ask what those items are, then it is better to stick with simple decks of cards and small magic rings.
"Paul has even made deals with magic creators to be the exclusive dealer of certain magic tricks," Hirshorn says.
The booming business didn't just cause a need for more space. Gross finally decided he needed to get some professional help.
"This is a specialized business. We just can't hire anybody. They have to have knowledge. Finding someone to fit the bill was difficult," Gross says.
Magician Tony Blanco agreed to leave the magic circuit in Las Vegas to join the shop staff a year ago. He had been a client of Hocus Pocus Magic for years.
"A lot of other magic shops have closed in recent years. They did not jump on the Internet part of the business, and that was a big mistake," Blanco says.
Just like Gross, Blanco found magic at a very early age. He got his first magic kit when he was 7. But it wasn't until he was a teenager that Blanco got serious about magic. His first paying job was as a street performer in New York's Central Park.
Blanco is a graduate of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. The skilled magic prop, puppet and costume designer and builder has been performing since 1977. In Las Vegas, he worked at Circus Circus, the Riviera, Dunes, Harrahs and Excalibur.
"It is great having him here. He works with all the customers. Tony has all kinds of patience," Gross says. "He also has a lot of talents. He can juggle, ride a unicycle, and if we need something built, he can do it. He is certainly a jack-of-all-trades."
Blanco is happy he made the move to Fresno. His work at the shop allows him to deal with some of the biggest names in magic. Past clients have ranged from Doug Henning to David Copperfield. Blanco also performs at local parties, business meetings and other events that need a little magic.
"Magic takes you to places you never thought you would be going. That's one of the things I have loved about being a magician," Blanco says. He's talking about how his interest in magic led to training in such diverse areas as stilt walking, fire-eating and writing.
Blanco also could be talking about his moves from New York to Las Vegas to Fresno.
Another plus of moving to the new building is that Gross now has a place to display his collection of vintage magic props, games, books and other items. The majority of the magic memorabilia had to be stored at the other location.
Blanco points to a stack of cases against the outside wall of Gross' office.
"That was the heaviest thing we moved," Blanco says.
Inside the cases were the items needed for a plate- spinning act. Previously, the items were stored out of sight. Now, the ultra heavy plates are on display.
One of the biggest items on display is a chalkboard used by Harry Blackstone Jr. Gross recalls fondly how he had the chance on two occasions to be an audience participant for a trick when Blackstone visited Fresno.
One of the things that Gross wants to pass on to customers is the thrill of being part of an illusion. The new building is giving Gross a hands-on way to do that. Magic classes are going to be offered for those interested in learning a little sleight-of-hand.
The four-week adult workshops will be held Thursdays starting at 7 p.m. Aug. 17. A childrens workshop will be held Saturdays starting at 9 a.m. Aug. 19. The price for the program, including all props needed, is $100.
For more information on the local magic shop, go to www.hocus-pocus.comThe weather reports a high of 119 degrees this weekend! WOW! Try to stay cool and keep us all in your prayers.
Until next time,
Friday, July 14, 2006
Fly, Boy, Fly! My son, Max, and I have decided to start raising White Homing Pigeons. My dad did this as a hobby, and the fact that Max is a true animal lover, makes this exciting. We had a large cage in the backyard where I keep my doves, and we've now added an additional space for the new pigeons. As there's nowhere in our area that sells them, I actually ordered them via the Internet, and they are due to arrive here sometime at the end of the month. I guess it's more than just magic that can be ordered over the 'net... Max has been spending most of his daytime fine tuning the cage, and he and I will build the roosting boxes this weekend. My house is now a regular Noah's Ark with 2 dogs, 15 tropical fish, 3 doves, 6 turtles, and soon-to-arrive pigeons! If anyone has any experience raising these Homing Pigeons, any advice you can send our way would be extremely helpful. Thank you in advance. We'll keep you posted and post more photos when they arrive.
You may have noticed that we've added a new feature to the front page of our web site. Entitled the "Hocus Pocus Clearance Center," this will be updated every week with products that are either one-of-a-kind, overstock, or discontinued merchandise. All the prices are way below our actual cost, which means you can save a bundle. Believe me, it's worth checking out regularly.
We had surprise visits from our good friend Lou Hirshorn from Los Angeles and a real long distance visit from Chris Kenworthy from Maryland! Both spent last weekend here, and they enjoyed seeing the new location and we had a great time going out to my favorite Italian restaurant last Saturday evening. Remember, if you're ever in the area, we'd love for you to stop by.
The weather has been in the triple digits with a high of 113 degrees! We're doing the best we can to stay cool, and I'm finding myself in the pool more this year than in the past. Hope you all have a great weekend, and I'll turn the blog over to Mike to post pictures from his trip. Enjoy.
Until next time,
Where's Waldo (or Mike)?
David in Florence
A view from Capri (Anacapri)
Ruins of Pompeii in Sorrento
Entrance to the Sistine Chapel
Prelude to the Sistine Chapel
The Vatican in Rome
Depiction of Moses at his burial site in Rome
The Colluseum in Rome
A view of the Colluseum's interior
The Arch of Constantine from the Colluseum
The Arch of Constantine in Rome
The Trevi Fountain in Rome
Trevi Fountain by night
The Pantheon in Rome
Mike's father's hometown of San Biase
Thursday, July 06, 2006
That's everyone waiting for the fireworks to start in the photo above.
Betty and Me taking it easy and taking a break from Hocus-Pocus.com My daughter, Aimee and my son Cole's girlfriend Amanda, having a great time too.
We're back at the old grindstone now at Hocus-Pocus, searching for the greatest magic tricks from around the globe and making them available to our customers. Our field agents were out in force at the IBM convention in Miami this past week and got us some great new effects; and now they're off to the national S.A.M. convention and on to FISM so we can continue to bring you the best. See the "Newest Items" page on our site for all that is fresh and keep on checking this page every week as I have some cool news and photos to share with you in later blogs that I really think you'll get a charge out of. Wait until you see the pictures that the Fresno Bee newspaper shot of our new location! "Wow!" is all I can say.
That's all for this week, until next time,