Al's Magic shop was truly the most exciting memories of my childhood.
In the heart of DC, we lived in Falls Church VA. So I had to beg my Mother to take me there, which she did, once a year on my birthday.
Al Cohen had this way about him - perfect for kids. A grandfatherly type with a twinkle in his eye. The first time I went there I was just 10 years old and I will never forget it. The place looked like something out of a Harry Potter movie, with silver cups, balls, and large stage magic in glass cases. He came out from behind the counter and gave me a big silver dollar to inspect. I gave it back to him and he threw is back and forth between his hands several times and then held out his fist to me and said "squeeze as hard as you can". I squeezed, and he opened his fist to reveal the silver dollar . . . bent into a curve. I thought it was real magic and had no concept of "tricks".
He then went back behind the counter and showed me what was then called "Pop" - the nickel through the rubber trick. I was soooooo mesmerized. How could that happen ?? He was a GOD to me. When he revealed to me that "I" could also do the same trick, a whole new world opened up to me. My mother bought Pop, 3-card Monte, and the Nickels-to-Dimes trick. We went home, and I was hooked. Later I was so obsessed that I sent him money in an envelope for more tricks. He mailed me the tricks but said "next time do not send coins - the envelope was torn and half of them were hanging out !!" What a dumb kid I was - hahaha.
Al eventually left and his son ran the store for a while then it closed. But I will never forget the wonderful old man with the twinkle in his eye at Al's Magic Shop. At 10, I no longer believed in Santa, but I believed in Mister Al. And I still believe in Mister Al. He's my hero !!!!