Dave Lemberg doesn’t remember how old he was when he first saw a commercial for TV Magic Cards, but he certainly recollects how it made him feel.
He was so excited that the cards went straight on his Christmas wish list, and the eventual gift launched a lifelong interest in magic tricks.
Lemberg grew up in southwest Washington and eventually became a teacher. Early in his career, he attended a convention where a presenter used magic tricks to teach science.
It wasn’t hard for Lemberg to make the connection, and he quickly employed the techniques as a first-year biology and physical science teacher at Vancouver’s Prairie High School.
“It was kind of a fun way to get kids excited,” he says. “It went over well with the students.”
When Lemberg turned 40, he began to study more about magic tricks, and started performing for audiences. He’s still teaching — chemistry and AP chemistry at Union High School — but says there’s something about magic that drew him back in a broader way.
“When I was older and I approached it, I remembered how exciting it was,” he says. “That’s when I got excited about bringing younger kids into magic.”
He started an online magic store, but soon local and budding magicians were asking to see the tricks demonstrated before they made a purchase. Lemberg agreed to open up his living room once a month for demonstrations.
Eventually, he decided to open a brick-and-mortar shop — first in Hazel Dell, just north of Vancouver, and for nearly the past four years, in the popular Uptown area of downtown Vancouver.
These days, Dave’s Killer Magic Shop sells magic tricks and gag gifts, hosts birthday parties, and holds magic classes and lectures, drawing in young and old alike. The shop’s tagline is, “Get your kicks with Dave’s killer tricks.”
Lemberg offers classes and lectures because he believes it’s important to keep the art of magic alive.
“If you don’t have older people mentoring younger people, the art will die, so I want to get kids involved – not just a casual interest but to go on and continue the art,” he says. “It’s fun to get excited as a youngster, and it’s fun to get other kids into it.”
Lemberg says not only is magic a fun hobby, but it also helps develop important life skills, such as interacting with and presenting things to an audience.
Young magicians might grow up and need to make a presentation at work. What better way to win over an audience, he reasons, than to open with a little magic?
“Being likable is a huge way to be successful in life,” he says. Plus, “magic seems to be impossible. Everybody loves the impossible.”
Lemberg and his sole employee will often demonstrate tricks for customers at the checkout counter.
Recently, for example, he showed a trick using three ropes, seeming to change their lengths by sliding them between his hands. He also demonstrated a trick where his wallet bursts into flames.
“People are all about new experiences, and when you watch magic it becomes a new experience,” he says.
Lemberg now mostly performs in the small theater at the back of his shop. In fact, he typically puts on a weekly show for families, but a leg injury prompted him to put those on hold for a while last year. He expects to relaunch those shows this year.
His performing days stretch back several years. About the time he was getting back into magic, he started performing at an area magic club, and he won a couple of contests sponsored by “SAM59,” the Portland affiliate of the Society of American Magicians.
The local club, founded in 1954, is the largest in the eight states that make up SAM’s Northwest region.
Not long ago, Lemberg won the local organization’s contest involving close-up magic, or magic performed closer to the audience than stage magic, and involving tricks that usually are sleight of hand.
Doing well at contests, including earning the local society’s Entertainer of the Year in 2011, built his confidence that he could successfully entertain a paying audience, Lemberg says.
“It takes a bit of working up to that point where you feel that’s possible,” he notes.
Lemberg’s favorite is parlor magic, which is typically more intimate than stage magic and doesn’t involve large props, equipment or illusions.
His favorite magician is Mac King, who combines comedy with magic and performs in Las Vegas.
Lemberg, 55, and his wife Gina, have two grown children. He has worked in the classroom for 28 years, and opened the shop with an eye toward retirement. So far, the business has yet to make a profit.
“I still enjoy teaching, and that is my income,” he says. “The business is not a money-maker, and it really takes a second seat to my job teaching. We’re building the business so that when I finally do retire, there’s something there. That was the motivation.”