- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

Montgomery County residents and magicians, during a packed County Council hearing yesterday, criticized a plan to destroy a long-standing magic shop in downtown Wheaton.

The plan calls for Barry’s Magic Shop, which has been on Georgia Avenue for more than 30 years, to be demolished to make way for a sidewalk to make downtown more accessible.

“It’s like the mom-and-pop hardware store. They go out of business because of Home Depot. And yet you go to Home Depot and ask how to fix this or do that and they have no idea,” said Denny Haney, co-owner of Denny & Lee Magic Studio in Baltimore.

Barry’s has been the last magic shop in the Washington area since the closure of Al’s Magic Shop in the District in 2004.

The County Council met yesterday morning to hear from the Wheaton Redevelopment Program, which is revitalizing thebeleaguered downtown area.

Mr. Haney, 61, recalled how shop owner Barry Taylor, 53, opened his store in his 20s.

“The guy’s devoted his whole life to this, and he’s going to get it taken away because of a sidewalk.”

Steve Hoffman, a Montgomery County resident and magic shop patron, said closing the store would be robbing the community.

“There’s literally nothing like it in the entire Washington, D.C., metro area,” he said. “To me it would seem ironic to tear down or get rid of a business in Wheaton that attracts so many people.”

Council members said they were concerned that the plan for the sidewalk has been in the works since 1995, while the county just bought the Barry’s Magic Shop building from Mr. Taylor and his wife in May.

“You could have a situation where they would be displaced and you could end up with a project that doesn’t get approved or built for years, and that’s what I’m having trouble getting my arms around,” said council member Steven A. Silverman, at-large Democrat.

“Why would you demolish a building until you knew exactly what the cost would be or what you want to put in there?”

Joseph Davis, director of the Wheaton Redevelopment Program, said the project would bring more shoppers and visitors downtown with a more convenient means of getting to the shopping areas.

“Today, if someone parks in the public parking lot, they have to walk all the way around the building and go to the store they want to go to,” said Mr. Davis, adding that although Mr. Taylor’s own walkway idea was considered by the county, it was not compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mr. Davis said the building that houses Barry’s was bought to be demolished, not preserved, but said the program’s goal is to keep the magic shop in Wheaton.

“He represents sort of a niche business,” he said. “[People] think of Wheaton when they think of Barry’s Magic Shop.”

Mr. Davis said he could not discuss the talks with Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Taylor did not return phone calls for comment.

Magician Eric Henning said the store does nothing but good things for the community.

“Montgomery County talks a big game about wanting to encourage family business and entrepreneurs and businesses that are going to improve the life of the community; well here’s a prime example.”

The County Council has not set a date for a decision. Redevelopment program officials said they will continue to work with Mr. Taylor with the hope of reaching a solution.

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