Brian Strohm, 19, mastered his first magic trick at 4 and by 12 was playing Boy Scout banquets and birthday parties at $15 a gig. Three years ago, while demonstrating magic kits at an L.A. department store, he was struck with disillusion—and a scheme. Most of the tricks he was shilling, Brian had discovered, were schlocky plastic and cardboard gimmicks that weren’t nearly as well crafted as the package showed them. So Strohm decided to develop his own line, under his stage name, “Mr. Mystic.” He brought in as partner a savvy sales executive, Sheldon Goodman, 57, and their first consignment of five tricks (including Cut-and-Restored Ropes and Chinese Linking Rings priced up to $14.95) sold out in two weeks at a branch of Bullock’s. This past year the entire 15-store, six-city Bullock’s chain signed up. Over half the illusions are bought by and for adults. “Kids want to figure out the tricks,” he observes. “Grownups want to be fooled.” Mr. Mystic’s ultimate goal is acting, and magic, he figures, is a good launching pad. Why not? It worked for Dick Cavett and Johnny Carson.
Wendy Jones (left) and Pamela Hale are 24-year-old Californians who-after camping across the country for four months and 17,000 miles-washed up in Cape Porpoise, Maine and turned their footloose life-style into a business. They sculpt ceramic shoes which are strictly nonfunctional except as planters, doorstops, toothbrush holders or whatever strikes a customer’s whimsy. Since opening shop in May in Kennebunk-port, they have moved more than 1,000 of their trade-marked Traveled Shoes. Their line runs from a small sculpted stoneware Earth Shoe for $5 to a clumpy terra cotta L. L. Bean boot for $75. Nostalgia is a big sales point. “A woman whose mother made her wear saddle shoes wants to give her mother a clay version now,” says Wendy. “People’s hearts and lives are in these shoes.” When they began, Pam had only a high school ceramics course and Wendy no experience at all. Yet they were able to get a $4,000 loan “to cover a failure” even though most of their Maine neighbors thought they were nuts. “They still do,” says Pam, but within two months the partners had recouped their investment. Now the old wanderlust has struck, and Wendy and Pam are taking their wares on the road to state fairs, galleries and what they hope will be a gold mine: the American Podiatry Association convention in Portland, Oreg.