Tucked inside a strip plaza along Gunn Highway, there is a small shop where the magic happens – literally.
The Magic Emporium serves performers, hobbyists and collectors from all over Tampa Bay looking for tricks, instruction manuals and props. It also provides a place for fellowship among the magically inclined, playing host to several magicians’ groups throughout the course of any given month.
The second Tuesday of each month is a special night when magicians from all over the region gather there, brought together by two common bonds – a love for magic and their Christian faith. Founded in 1953, the Fellowship of Christian Magicians is now an international organization with chapters in 49 states and more than 25 countries. The Florida chapter got off the ground in 2011, when Magic Emporium owner Gary Barker kick started efforts here.
The group is now open to magicians and performers from all over the state and boasts an active roster of members, Barker said. Not exclusive to magicians, the group also welcomes jugglers, clowns, balloon artists, puppeteers and other like-minded performers.
The purpose is to bring Christian magicians together to provide them an opportunity to hone their craft, share their knowledge and learn from others, Barker said. Members also are dedicated to using their performing skills to help spread God’s message.
Barker said Tampa meetings provide a place for veteran magicians, newcomers and the curious to get together to talk everything magic. Members share their latest tricks on the shop’s stage while hands-on lessons are taught to help performers expand and refine acts. Sometimes even a few tricks of the trade are shared.
“We help each other be better performers,” Barker said. “It’s not just learning the trick – it’s how to communicate a message.”
Barker has been practicing his craft for about 36 years and says it’s a passion that’s driven by a sense of giving back to others. Magicians, he said, are motivated to delight audiences and help them recover the sense of curiosity and awe so common in childhood, but often lost on adults.
“We all want to be a kid again,” Barker said. “That moment of wonder, that’s what we want to recreate. It’s not about fooling people. It’s about creating that ‘wow’ moment.”
For member and veteran magician Bill Walsh, the meetings and the shop itself provide a place for fellowship.
“They’re the best people I know,” Walsh said. “They’re family.”
The Magic Emporium is located at 4429 Gunn Highway. The shop also plays host to several other magicians’ groups throughout the month.