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Topic: Phil Thomas' Yogi Magic Mart
Message: Posted by: Ronin (May 30, 2003 12:47AM)
This is a long post, but the memory is very special--to me, anyway.

My favorite place in the world used to be the old Yogi Magic Mart, at 217 N. Charles Street in Baltimore, MD. I understand there's a "new" Yogi Magic Mart now. I haven't visited the "new" Yogi yet, but have many fond memories of the original, and of its owner, Phil Thomas.

As a college student during the mid-80's, I had a summer job in downtown Baltimore. Because of the afternoon bus schedules, I had about an hour after work before I could head home to the suburbs. Many of these hours were spent in the Yogi Magic Mart, in the company of Phil Thomas.

My favorite memory of the place is of riding the elevator up to the shop and walking in: the doors would open on the Yogi's spacious showroom, and most afternoons Phil would be standing behind the counter, opposite the elevator. His face would light up with a warm smile. "Welcome, Friend!" he'd say, and he'd mean it.

Once Phil saw that I was a serious magic aficionado, he not only gave me valuable advice, but he'd actually reveal the workings of tricks to me, to help me make informed buying decisions! I remember Phil as someone who wasn't about making sales, but he was about helping magicians.

At the time, I had some pretty good books on general magic, mostly obtained from mainstream bookstores (stuff like "Scarne's Magic Tricks," the first "Now You See It, Now You Don't," "Magic Digest," etc). Phil told me, "If you're going to be a serious student of magic, you need textbooks! When you decide to learn chemistry, what's the first thing you pick up? A chemistry textbook! You need to learn algebra, what do you get? An algebra textbook! It's the same with cards, coins, silks, mentalism or anything in magic." From that lesson, I went on to purchase copies of "Modern Coin Magic" and "The Royal Road to Card Magic" from Phil, and I treasure them to this day.

When Phil learned that I did not own the Tarbell Course, he gently scolded me, and set a copy of Volume 1 on the counter in front of me. Cost was about $18 a volume, or $110 for the whole set of seven, as I recall. Feeling a bit extravagant that day, I reached for my checkbook and said something about $110 sounding like a good deal. Phil stopped me, held up Vol. 1 and said, "Don't buy the whole set all at once. Just start with Vol. 1. You know why? If you buy all seven at once, you won't read ANY of them carefully. Take it one step at a time." It would be almost 20 years before I completed the set, and Phil only "got the sale" on two of those seven volumes.

After going on to graduate school and moving out to California, I lost track of Phil and the Yogi. While visiting my parents one summer (I think it was in 1992) I found out that the Yogi had been sold and that Phil had retired. A few years ago, my mom mailed me a copy of Phil's obituary. I was saddened to hear of his passing, but if ever a person has lived on in memory, Phil has lived on in mine. A few months back, I picked up a copy of Milbourne Christopher's "Illustrated History of Magic" for the first time in many years, and I was pleased to notice that it's dedicated to Phil. I know he did a lot for magic during all those years--running the Yogi, hosting meetings, lectures and shows--and I'll always be grateful for what he did for me.
Message: Posted by: phread (Apr 28, 2004 09:42PM)
Phil thomas was the first magician I ever met. I first went in 1977 I think, after seeing all the doug henning specials you thought I should give it a try. I saw andre kole at towson university and phil was there too. he started me with tarbell 1, a set of cups and balls. I still have a small chop cup from him I think it may be a supreme chop cup. it was a great place to go.
Message: Posted by: Zorak (May 28, 2004 09:17AM)
My memories of Phil Thomas could fill a volume.
I was 22 years old when my (then) father-in-law Ziggy took me to a meeting at the Yogi Magic Club. The club boasted the largest independant magic club in the world.
Needless to say I was mesmerized by the little impromptu show staged by the club members, trying out their latest magic routines. How did they cut that rope and restore it? I was bitten, hooked, addicted from that moment on.
But it was the persona of this man with eyes that twinkled under bushy brows and a infectious smile, that changed my life. Being brought up in a tough inner city neighborhood, I had never met a man like this. Phil was soft spoken, kind, and very encouraging in a way that penetrated the very core of my existence.
To make a long, long, story short, He gave me the confidence to be the artist and magician I am today.
Not too mention the hundreds of friends and fun experiences. I always said that I thought that Phil Thomas was the luckiest guy I ever knew (and I'm 62). He was married to a fine lady Kaye who helped him build the fantastic Yogi Magic Mart (what a kind & generous soul she was). After Kaye died, Phil was like a lost soul. Than an angel named Ann came into the picture. And pretty as a picture she was. We all fell in love with Ann Thomas with her sweet Tennesee accent and southern belle charm. They were a devoted couple who traveled the world as our magic ambassadors. Yes, Phil had two loving wonderful magical partners plus he got to live his dream as a magician and magic dealer with complete success.
Did I admire this man? More than I can say. Did I love him? Like my father.
I am so glad those years under the tutorage and guidance of the man that was my dear friend.
I miss you Phil, Ann, Kay. I know heaven's rewards are yours, for the innumerable lives you changed.
Just one last hing worth mentioning. In all the years I knew Phil Thomas I never heard him utter a disparaging remark against anyone at any time. That says it all.
Message: Posted by: Clay Shevlin (Jun 9, 2004 07:27PM)
Do any of you have any of his used magic lists? I collect them, believe it or not!
Message: Posted by: Ronin (Jun 9, 2004 11:54PM)
Sorry Clay, I don't happen to have any of those lists.

It's great to see other people also remember Phil and the Yogi so fondly!
Message: Posted by: Clay Shevlin (Jun 10, 2004 01:18AM)
Unfortunately, I never met him and never had the chance to do business with him. I think he was a close friend of Milbourne Christopher. If memory serves, Phil called Chris one day when I was visiting Chris and I heard Chris tell Phil that he (Chris) had a young "whipper snapper" visiting, so Chris put me on the phone to say hello. Sounded like a nice guy!
Message: Posted by: stilson (Jun 25, 2004 02:39PM)
I used to go to the Yogi magic mart 30 years ago, as a 10 year old boy. I was into magic for about 5 years and then stopped until about 9 months ago. So I have Phil to thank for the hobby that I enjoy so much, again, today.
Message: Posted by: DonDriver (Aug 19, 2004 09:50PM)
Hi Guys,
I guess I'm the lucky one here.I worked for Phil at the Yogi Magic Mart when it was at 310 N.Charles,second floor walk up,from 1974-77.This was when Micky Ford was around every Sat.The Yogi Magic Club room was on the third floor.I was living in Vegas when the fire happen and Phil moved the shop to 217 N. Charles.David Romer worked their at this time.(I did hear about David,very sad)
If any of you remember me from that time please post here or PM me so we can talk the old days.
These were with out question the best years of my magic life.
Hope to hear from you,
Message: Posted by: Bill Rubie (Sep 8, 2004 04:54AM)
My first visit to The Yogi was around 1968. For a 10 year old I was pretty well versed in magic. (So I thought. Then I met Phil. I wanted a thumb tip that looked real. In Phil's way he replied " I have humdreds!!"

Phil then proceeded to shpw me several. ( Well more than several). Next he performed a simple thumb tip vanish.

Of course I said That was the thumb tip I wanted. His reply was "Oh I can't sell you this because it's my personal one. and when he showed it to me I was amazed that it was BRIGHT RED!

Phil taught me a great lesson that day. It's not the gimmick, It's the presentation.

I left the store that day with a thumb tip and the most important item "50 tricks with a thumb tip" which I still have.
Message: Posted by: Phil Thomas (Sep 24, 2004 05:16PM)
Sorry guys........ no relation, but maybe there is a specific reason I got into magic? Who knows?
Message: Posted by: Bill Wells (Nov 2, 2004 11:46PM)
When I was in the Army in the late '60s and stationed in Frederick, MD I used to spend many Saturday afternoons in the Yogi Magic Mart in the "back room" being amazed by the likes of Frank Thompson, Cy Kellar, and Howie Swartzman. The monthly Yogi Club meetings were a great gathering. It was one of those few "classic" magic shops!
Message: Posted by: John Ekin (Aug 16, 2005 09:10AM)
Hi folks,

I'm also an old Yogi kid, I worked in the shop with Phil, Ann, and Dave Roemer in the mid 80's. What wonderful people! It warms my heart to see so many names (many of whom I recognize!) that also share fond memories of Yogi's. Would love to hear more.

On a sad note, Yogi friend and regular Cy Keller is fighting cancer in Philadelphia and losing strength pretty rapidly. His companion, Bernice, asks that all his magic friends contact him as it really boosts his spirits to hear from us. Here's the info:

Cy Keller & Bernice Bricklin
(215) 483-1822
253-E Shawmont Ave.
Philadelphia PA 19128
Hospital phone: 215-248-8637 (OK to call)

I really don't know Cy's actual condition but I spoke with him for the first time this morning and he was very short of breath, but very coherent and happy to hear from me. Please don't put it off; drop him a card or call today.
Message: Posted by: NicholasD (Sep 4, 2007 09:42PM)
I'm a little late on this post, but I just joined. Cy keller was my first mentor. When he worked at the Yogi Shop, I visited every Saturday. I have fond memories of our lunches together. I'll always remember Cy as the gentleman Leipzig spoke about. When Cy performed, you knew you'd been entertained by a gentleman. Luckily, I heard about his illness and was able to call him before he passed away. I'm having a tough time writing this even now. I'll never forget him.
Message: Posted by: Cardician99 (Oct 31, 2008 07:47AM)
Just registered after coming across site for the first time, and came across this old thread.

Yes, Nicolas, I remember Cy very well. Spent many an afternoon with the gentleman finger flicking at his place or mine.

As for Phil, I first entered his Yogi Magic Mart #1 back in 1962. Got "bit" on that initial visit to a magic shop, and remaind his supporter and friend until he retired and left the area.

Other names to recall: Bob Tilford; Imp Smith; Mike Shirmer; "Your Host," George Most; George Dency, along with Howie Swartzman & Dennis Haney. And others, who's memories have slipped by over the years.

Howie turns 81 next week, and he can be found at Denny & Lee's Magic Studio here in Baltimore every Thursday afternoon. Has the spirit and energy of a 50 year old, and still a master with the cards.

Onward for a little more brousing!
Message: Posted by: SillverFoxx (Nov 9, 2008 04:55PM)
Hello everyone!
I just purchased the first three volumes of the Tarbell Course in Magic. They are very old copies (which I'm excited about) and volume one has a name plate inside that says it belonged to Cyril A. Keller. Is this the same person as Cy Keller? There is also an inscription on the first inside page that says the book was given to Cyril by Phil Thomas on August 1, 1942. It says:

a sincere student of sorcery- keep 'em happy with magic!
Phil Thomas

Are these the same men you are talking about?? I'm so excited to learn about this book's previous owners! I'm pretty new to magic myself, and I love learning about the history of things. I wish I could post a picture of the inscription; I tried, but the website wouldn't let me.
Message: Posted by: Cardician99 (Nov 10, 2008 07:03AM)
They are the one and the same. Phil and Cy were close friends, but I didn't realize they went back so far!!

In brief, Phil had his own TV show in the 1950's featuring many of the local magicians as guest performers here in Baltimore. He operated the Yogi Magic Mart, but I am uncertain as to exactly what year it opened. (I was a young pup back then!)

Magicians famous and not so famous gathered there in large numbers EVERY Saturday afternoon for many years. It was something everyone looked forward to on a weekly basis, yours truely included.

In his youthful days, Phil performed with Melbourne Christopher as a team. I "believe" they billed themselves as "Mel & Phil," but don't quote me on this one. Christopher dropped by the shop quite often just to say hello.

Cy could be found there quite frequently. I first met him in 1962. He specialized in sleight of hand card magic, and was a wize with his linking ring routine. I had the fortune of his friendship, and we met frequently to discuss the "pasteboards."

As mentioned in other threads here, Phil Thomas actually had 3 shops. This was the result of 2 being destroyed by fire. He sold the last business I believe in the mid-80's. Phil eventually wound up in a nursing home in one of the Carolina's, and passed some years ago.

Cy professionally was in the banking business. He, too, if I recall the time period correctly, retired in the late 1980's. Cy remained active in magic and helping the "newbies", until he passed away from cancer in 2005. (Notes from his only lecture is one of my prized possessions.)

I could go on and on.....

Hope this little bit of history has been helpful.
Message: Posted by: SillverFoxx (Nov 10, 2008 04:02PM)
It's very helpful!! Thank you to everyone who has written me about the book and these two men! I am really enjoying hearing about them and their story. There's another discussion going on specifically about the book in the section "Magicians of Old". You can find it here:
Message: Posted by: KIDDMAGIC (Feb 26, 2013 10:50PM)
This is nice to see Mr. Thomas so fondly remembered. Phil Thomas and his wonderful store, Yogi's Magic Mart made a huge impact on me as a young conjurer from the Baltimore suburbs. He would fatherly veer me away from purchasing effects that he deemed misleading or poor, even though he stocked them! A true gentleman. It saddens me to think he spent his last years alone. He was a wonderful magician and mentor. I still have my original receipts and purchases bearing his little stickers he would put on everything.
Message: Posted by: KIDDMAGIC (Mar 4, 2013 07:37PM)
Here's some of the wonderful literature sold to me by Phil Thomas.
Message: Posted by: Anatole (Mar 12, 2014 07:33PM)
Someone please correct me if my memory is wrong, but I think Phil sometimes attended the meetings held at Main Street Magic in Ellicott City, Maryland before it burned down. I think Phil gave them permission to use the Yogi Magic Club name there. I did my manipulation act there one night and Phil came up and said he remembered me from the original Yogi club. I think he confused me with someone else, because I had never attended any Yogi meetings in Baltimore.

----- Sonny