Williams Magic closed its brick-and-mortar store in Tucson earlier this year, but the shop has hardly done a full disappearing act. Rather, the Williams family revamped the business and divided it into three parts: mobile, online and roadside kiosk.
The mobile part of Williams Magic is designed to serve professional magicians in cities that don’t have magic shops. Emory Williams Jr., a third-generation magician who co-owns the store with his wife, father and mother, purchased and remodeled a 42-foot Heartland Toyhauler into a traveling magic shop carrying more than 4,000 items and thousands of books.
In the 3ƒ years the mobile shop has been open, it has made more than 200 visits in 37 states. Williams says it has helped the family to establish relationships with magicians across the nation, which brings repeat business.
“It’s one of a kind,” said John Shryock, a professional magician and longtime customer. “I hope it works out well for them.”
The store has had an online presence for several years and continues to do business with customers around the world. But business is slow. Williams says it’s because magic is dying as an art.
“The new kids aren’t getting into it like they used to,” he said. “It used to be handed down, ... but with the advent of the Internet, anybody can access it. They buy it, and they share it. There are no more secrets.”
Williams Magic considered itself an old-fashioned magic shop for professional magicians and beginners when it had its store on East 22nd Street near South Wilmot Road. Its closing was hard for Shryock. “The way it hurt the most was it used to be a place magicians could hang out and jam tricks back and forth. We lost that.”
Shryock says he’s been around the world doing magic, and out of all the places he’s been, Williams was always one of his favorite stores, mainly because of the Williams family.
Another local magician, Norm Marini, shares that sentiment. “The Williamses are magic,” he said. “There is nothing they would not do to help any of us in magic.”
The Williams family has opened a tiny 8-by-13-foot shop on a roadside in rapidly growing Vail, two miles off of Interstate 10 and across the street from that community’s only gas station. Tourists traveling I-10 come in when they stop to fill up their tanks.
The little shop is built to be portable, on a trailer — but not mobile. The Williamses plan to keep it there for the indefinite future. It was made to be fully sustainable, and everything is run off of solar power. It is stocked with more than 1,000 products, mostly focusing on beginners, kids and tourists, but with things professional magicians need, too.
Customers are entertained by Emory Williams Sr., a first-generation magician, who operates the shop on the weekends with his wife, Nathailia.
“We’re providing wholesome activities for kids to get into,” he said.