The oldest joke shop in the U.S. is right here in Minnesota — and it's still going strong
The Burnsville store has hundreds of items perfect for April Fools’ Day
Larry Kahlow poses for a portrait in Eagle Magic and Joke Store on Friday, March 24, 2017. The shop opened in 1899 and is the longest continually running magic shop in the country.
Situated in Burnsville, the “oldest magic shop in America” has all the supplies necessary to craft the perfect April Fools’ Day.
The rows of shelves and showcases in Eagle Magic and Joke Store are full of everything from Chinese linking rings and snake cans, to mysterious tubes and decks of cards.
While the hundreds of items may seem daunting at first, the store’s owner, Larry Kahlow, has helped anyone and everyone from behind the counter since 1971.
"I've had many hundreds of thousands of conversations with people regarding this stuff,” Kahlow said. “It's fun to see people that I started out [in tricks] 46 years ago still being interested in this. I start someone out every day."
Having worked at the shop for nearly five decades, Kahlow doesn’t just sell tricks — he teaches how they work. He provides mentorship to those who want to learn, which is something you can’t always get at other joke shops or online.
"I'm helping you with the how-to and the real thing,” he said. “I'm a magician.”
But don’t go into the store expecting to learn all of magic’s greatest secrets. Kahlow will likely start beginners off with tricks like Hot Rods or Cups and Balls, which are both under $15. He won’t sell tricks to people who aren’t ready for them.
While Kahlow said anyone can do magic, being successful at it is just like learning to play the piano — you have to start with the basics and respect the art’s process.
“You can get three or four things and pull them off,” the 66-year-old said. “It doesn't matter when you get started being interested in magic tricks, but the sooner the better."
At 10 years old, Kahlow would frequent Eagle Magic when it was located in downtown Minneapolis. The beginner magic kits, snake cans, joy buzzers and whoopee cushions had him hooked. Five years later, he was putting on his own magic shows and making money for himself.
"By the time I was 15 I knew what I was going to do, and I did it,” Kahlow said. He started working at the store soon after and has only learned more since.
Kahlow has been with Eagle Magic through many location and inventory changes. One thing, however, has stayed the same: the shop’s success.
Eagle Magic’s reputation has allowed Kahlow to hang out in the shop with Muhammad Ali, get to know former Gophers football coach and frequent customer, Lou Holtz, and sell over 200 stink bombs to ZZ Top’s lead vocalist, Billy Gibbons.
Despite a lack of advertising and a relatively small sign outside the store, he said magic is a self-sufficient enterprise. Those who are interested find their way down there.
"People don't listen to advertising for tires unless they need tires," he said. "When someone needed to do something, Eagle Magic Store was known for having the Groucho glasses or having a big, foam cowboy hat or large toothbrush.”
For 118 years, Eagle Magic and Joke Store has been one of the best place to go for magicians in the Twin Cities. If they need something of the magical variety, they go to Kahlow.
Where else would they go if they need one, 18-inch, red, silk handkerchief?
“They come here to get it,” Kahlow said.