Issue 20.6: December 2017/January 2018
Native Intelligence: O‘ahu

Now You See It

Story by Larry Lieberman. Photos by Dana Edmunds.

It might not be an enchanted emporium straight out of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, but for the uninitiated Zuke’s Magic & Jokes can be equally hard to find. A speck of nostalgia on a residential side street in Kalihi, the tiny shop has been a haunt of Hawai‘i’s magicians for more than thirty years. And by the looks of it, some items have been on the shelves the whole time.

“If you’re looking for that out-of-print, hard-to-find trick, the only place to go is Zuke’s,” says Kekoa Erickson, a close-up magic specialist and consultant to Waikīkī’s Magic of Polynesia show. “There’s nowhere else like it.”

The late Jimmy “Zuke” Zukemura took over the little neighborhood general store from his parents in the 1970s (a faded, WWII-era “C. Zukemura General Merchandise” sign still hangs outside, sporting a vintage 7 Up logo), but it wasn’t long before his love of magic transformed the shop’s purpose. Cans of Spam and bags of rice gave way to Japanese silk handkerchiefs and trick Svengali card decks. More importantly, Zuke’s became the place for magicians to gather, tell stories, share secrets and hone their routines.

Conjurers in the know head for the state’s last brick-and-mortar magic supply shop whenever they need a new wand, fake thumb or more elaborate illusions and props. Crowded display cases contain oddities galore, some with mysterious names like“The Sahara Casket” or “Pyramid of Plenty” and others more self-explanatory, such as the “Arm Chopper” or “Life-like Rat.” Classic tricks and novelties spill out of cardboard boxes strewn across aging shelves like a garage sale at Houdini’s house.

“These days, lots of kids watch YouTube to learn the secrets,” says longtime Zuke’s regular Bob Windham, helping out at the store on a lazy Saturday afternoon while his co-conspirator Dennis Awai wows a teenage customer with a rope trick. “But just knowing how a trick is done isn’t enough. It’s the presentation that makes it entertaining. There’s a difference between simply doing a trick and performing magic.”

So where exactly is this spellbinding time capsule located? Like any good prestidigitator, the proprietors don’t broadcast their secrets. But if you love magic and can conjure up a Google search, it’ll find you.