The Mingus Magic Shop at 528 Lancaster Avenue in the Millmont neighborhood of southwest Reading is the oldest operating Magic Shop in Pennsylvania and quite possibly the entire United States. On Thursday, April 19th, the shop will be “born again” after a complete renovation of both its exterior facade and historic interior. A ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the shop’s Grand Reopening will take place at 5:00 PM complete with a live Wizard performing slight-of-hand on the sidewalk beginning at 4:45 PM. The shop will remain open through 8:00 PM and the general public can enjoy refreshments while browsing the grand wooden cases displaying historic and collectible magic tricks dating back to 1938 when the shop first opened.
Visitors will enjoy the wizardry of Jim Stilianos, the official Mascot of the shop while the public participates in a contest to “Name the Wizard Mascot” and win a prize from the vast collection of magic tricks available for sale. A 15% off sale will continue from Thursday through Saturday to celebrate the Grand Reopening.
Wayne Shifflett was a bony 16 year-old boy in 1968 when he first met Leroy Mingus, magician and original proprietor of the shop located in West Reading at the time. The meeting was transformative; young Wayne was hooked and over time became a student of the elderly owner. Shifflett bought the business from Mingus in 1976 and moved it into Reading. The Magic Shop is one of only three remaining in Pennsylvania. “We have customers who travel from far and wide to the shop,” Shifflett said. “We even had a family from Switzerland who visited the shop while on vacation in the United States. They were traveling from New York City to Florida and detoured just to stop here at the Mingus Magic Shop.”
Leroy Mingus was famous for his flower bouquets made from bird feathers. The bouquets continue to be sought after by magicians from across the country known as ‘Feather Flower Magic’ and used often in top hat tricks. Some original Mingus bouquets are on display in the Shop along with a large collection of magic memorabilia. Shifflett continues to manufacture and supply the market through the Mingus Magic Manufacturing Corporation which also produced an original boxed kit for advanced magicians, “The Young Magician” invented by Mingus. An example of the kit is also on display.
A delightful surprise awaits visitors in the rear of the Shop where an original performing stage known as the Mingus Magic Mini Vaudeville Theatre with 18 original theatre seats is located. The Theatre is quite active rear-round where visiting magicians perform, lectures are offered and a very special 4th Annual 24-Hour Magic Marathon will be produced beginning at 5:00 PM on Friday May 4th and continuing through 5:00 PM on Saturday, May 5th. For 24 hours continuously, a 15-minute Magic Show will take place every half hour. “We get lots of late night and early morning spectators after the local bars close,” Shifflett joked.
The 18th Wonder Improvement Association is particularly interested in supporting the Mingus Magic Shop and other unique businesses located in the 18th Ward neighborhoods of Millmont, Oakbrook and WyomissingPark. “This is the type of destination and entertainment business that draws an enthusiastic crowd and the 18W intends to recruit more businesses like this,” said Sam Loth, Coordinator for the Association.
A documentary film is being completed on the Mingus Magic Shop by Ryan Adamowicz of Barely Upright Productions. The 1/2 hour film will be screened at the Goggleworks Theatre on Sunday, May 20th and Saturday, May 26th.