Big anniversary for San Antonio's last remaining magic shop
SAN ANTONIO —
They say a good magician never reveals his secrets. But this month marks the twenty-year anniversary for San Antonio's last remaining magic shop. So we went to the Northwest Side to see if the owner of JCR Magic would reveal the secret to his success.
Four days a week, inside an office park off Grissom Road in the Leon Valley area, you'll find Julio Ramirez, Junior keeping busy.
"If you ask any magician, any hobbyist here, everyone knows JCR,” says longtime customer and magician Peter Carollo, aka That Magic Guy.
"Some people just hang out here all day," adds Julio. "Just to bother me."
Customers include professional magicians like Carollo; hobbyists like Brian Ramirez, who needs some tricks for his nephew's birthday party; and even beginners like young Max Bonilla.
Julio just can't wait to show them the latest trick he's got up his sleeve. Or even the classics... The Houdini thumbcuff escape. The ball and vase. Magic sponges. Magic cartoon deck. Magic cups and balls.
Julio had exactly zero background in magic when, back in June of 1997, he decided to open "JCR Co's World of Magic and Fun" downtown across from the Alamo. 46 years old at the time, he'd already spent a career in retail and was ready for a change.
"The other reason was I thought it'd be fun. I mean, how cool is that?"
Twenty years and four locations later, he's still in the business of magic.
"I don't want to do anything else," Julio says.
But we were curious what happened to all the other magic shops.
"I'm not really sure why the magic shop seems to be disappearing," said customer Brian Ramirez. "It's kind of strange because everybody loves magic still."
Ask Julio, and the answer is as simple as two words – "the internet."
"There were a lot of shops around the country,” Julio says. "And they started dropping off like flies."
Over the past twenty years, Julio estimates he's had about eight local competitors. His last competition closed down about five years ago, leaving JCR as the only magic shop in all of San Antonio.
"I've been told that there are less than fifty left in the entire United States," adds Julio.
"San Antonio's seen its fair share of shops come and go," says magician Carollo. "And this has always just been a staple for us. And there's a reason that this shop survives."
The reason? Customer service, Julio says. The kind you can't get online.
"I demonstrate it, you get to feel it, you know what you're buying. And then I give you a little lesson."
"It’s a good place to see new magic as it comes out and test it out and feel something before you buy it. It's kind of like test-driving a car."
So in this environment, how much longer can he keep his store open?
"When I can't work anymore," Julio says with a smile. "That's when I'll retire. Like if I die, I'll retire."