November 29, 2021

Elmhurst magic shop closes after 27 years because of rent costs

Bob James to continue offering entertainment services

ELMHURST – Bob James' Magic & Curiosities officially closed its doors at 131 W. First St. in Elmhurst on Aug. 18, nearly three decades after it opened.

James, an Elmhurst resident, said rising rent for the property was the reason for his shop's departure from the downtown Elmhurst business scene. He is considering opening a shop nearby, possibly in Villa Park or Lombard, where the rent may be lower, he said.

"We'll see if we can do it again, but I think we're going to have to move to a different town. I don't think there's a space affordable for us in Elmhurst," James said.

He said many people visited the shop in its final days in Elmhurst.

"I've had more people come in than if it were a wake or a funeral, just to pay their respects," James said. "They are so sad to see me go."

Frequenters of the shop could see various oddities such as the inside of a raccoon skull that was used to demonstrate how a raccoon smelled and breathed, mummified animals and a human skull, James said. The shop also had items such as tarot cards, Ouija boards, magic-related antiques, coffins and Elmhurst historical items.

The shop featured a secret passageway behind a bookcase that opened and led to a hidden staircase to the lower level, where there was a magic parlour where children could have a party. James also built a theater on the second floor.

"There were things that were like the best-kept secret in town, but there were people who knew about it," he said.

His shop provided entertainment for children and adults alike for events such as birthday parties.

James recalled how the store opened before the "birth of the internet," operating sometimes through mail order. He said magic was a "big hobby" prior to the internet and through the 1990s, but as time went on, people lost interest.

The shop was closed for 30 months between 2010 and 2013 with the retail industry "dying," James said. Then, as the economy rebounded, the shop reopened.

James, a professional magician, will continue offering his entertainment services. He said his services are family oriented without off-color or obscene material.

"That's what we've always done, and we've done real well keeping it that way with families," he said.

James can be reached through his Facebook page at or website at