Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Magic shop to materialize in Rockville

County deal will provide owners of Wheaton store with relocation money

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Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
Barry Taylor (right) of Barry’s Magic Shop in Wheaton performs a few tricks for a press conference audience in Rockville at the site of his new store. Taylor credited County Executive Isiah Leggett (left) with brokering a deal for county funding for the relocation. A county project will take the land off Georgia Avenue in Wheaton where Taylor’s current store lies.
After nearly a year of negotiation and compromise, Barry’s Magic Shop has found another home in Rockville where the owners say the magic will be bigger and better.

‘‘We’re going to make great things happen here in our new store,” said Barry Taylor, co-owner of the Wheaton store, during a press conference April 11 at the new location, where he performed a few sleight-of-hand tricks for the audience.

The new store, located at 5544 Nicholson Lane in Rockville, is about twice the size of the old building, which will be torn down by the county for a pedestrian walkway in the heart of downtown Wheaton.

The Nicholson Lane store, on the second floor of a building, is about 4,000 square feet and was once used by a martial arts school.

Taylor and his wife, Susie Kang, were excited to announce they would continue working their magic in Montgomery County.

But Taylor and Kang were not always pleased with county officials. In fact, they fought with the county to stop their building from being demolished and said they did not know why the county was in such a hurry to take the property. They said other relocation sites in Wheaton were not as suited for their shop.

In January, when the county extended the shop’s occupancy in Wheaton, Taylor said he was also not happy with the compensation the county was offering for relocation and the inevitable rent increase.

At the time, the county was only offering assistance for three years, but the owners and their lawyers were asking for four to five. Kang also said there were just not enough available options for relocation in Wheaton, so she and Taylor began looking in Rockville and Aspen Hill.

Rent will double for the owners in the new space, but Kang said County Executive Isiah Leggett’s office helped obtain money for five years. Barry’s Magic Shop will receive up to $260,000 for relocation assistance and rent subsidy for that period.

Taylor and Kang have signed a five-year lease with an option for an additional five years. But Taylor said a clause would allow the owner to not renew the lease if plans for redevelopment emerge.

‘‘At least I have five years and I’ll be notified in advance,” Taylor said. Barry’s Magic Shop has until June 30 to vacate its current building, and hopes to have the new shop running by mid-July.

The press conference was put on by Leggett’s office. Leggett (D), who was praised by Taylor and Kang for his assistance, said the resolution was an example of what government is capable of.

‘‘This is an exciting day for Montgomery County,” Leggett said. ‘‘[It shows] the commitment and willingness of the county to make things happen to create positive outcomes.”

The magic shop’s current building at 11234 Georgia Ave. was acquired by the county in June for $987,000 to create a mid-block walkway designed to connect stores on Georgia Avenue to those on Triangle Lane. The walkway has been under discussion since 1995 when it was introduced in the county’s Capital Improvement Program.

Taylor said he was so grateful for what Leggett had done to help the business that he was going to name a ‘‘magic theater” after the county executive.

‘‘[Leggett] accomplishes great things and that is truly magic,” Taylor said as he turned a balloon into a wooden wand. He later helped Leggett pull a dove out of a black cloth sack.

Pat Koslowe, a Silver Spring resident who used to bring her five children to the shop and lobbied the county on Taylor’s behalf, now brings some of her 13 out-of-state grandchildren to the shop. She has been a Barry’s customer for about 25 years.

‘‘When my children were young, this was the greatest treat,” Koslowe said of the magic shop.‘‘[Taylor] is so good at pulling a trick that applies to the kids’ age and budget.”

Meanwhile, Wheaton officials are preparing to build the walkway. Natalie Cantor, director of Mid-County Regional Services Center, said federal funds that were going to be used for the walkway will be used to improve infrastructure along Ennalls Avenue. Cantor said the county still has enough money in its budget for the walkway.

‘‘We’re just sort of shifting the shelves legally and we’ll have the money within our own budget to pay for the walkway,” Cantor said.

While happy to have found a new location in Rockville, where Taylor and Kang live, Kang said she would miss Wheaton.

‘‘We have a lot of friends there and we have to go back and eat,” Kang said. ‘‘Things have to move along, but we’ll definitely miss Wheaton.”