Magus books is celebrating 19 years serving the Twin Cities this month. Join them tomorrow, Saturday Sept 17th from 10am-5pm for Customer Appreciation Day at Magus Books & Herbs. FREE BBQ’d Vittles catered by Standing Stones Coven , Tea Sampling, Door Prizes, Grab Bags, Tarot, Aura Photos & other fantastic specials. Talks & Discussion will be happening through-out the day.
I talked to Roger Williamson about the history of the store. Provoking Thoughts and Expanding Horizons since 1992! is your website tag line, what does that mean to you?
We feel that in society a lot of people aren’t encouraged to go out and pursue their dreams. They may not be aware of all the opportunities open to them. I would like to think Magus helps promote that idea, magical philosophy, that you can be anything you want to be. We try to appeal to open-minded people, who feel all belief systems are valid. We should respect all points of view, even if they happen to be contrary to our own.
I didn’t intend to sell books at all, but I had written a book called the ‘Sun at Night’ . When I moved to the states, I had a large library of magical, occult books. I thought a good way to sell it and promote myself would be to advertise used occult books, which I did. Anyone that ordered a used book catalog, I would send out a flyer for my book. I discovered soon enough that distributors would carry my book, and I could set up an account with them and buy new books from them, which I could then include in the catalog. I worked out of my basement, but thought, “You know if you had a retail space, you could probably be doing this all day!”. I always liked Dinkytown, it has a nice Bohemian like quality to it. I saw this sign, “Used Retail and Office space to rent.” The next thing I knew I was renting a space at the back of Dinkydale Mall. I started with a few Tarot decks, some incense, incense burners, A couple new books, and a lot of used books, and whatever I could fill the space with. I opened there Sept 1st of 1992. In those days I could stand in the middle and almost touch all four walls! I’ve come a long way since then.
How have you been able to survive and grow for 19 years?
We can look out on the internet and see how many talented people there are that you have never heard of. What you need is to be persistent. You can have all the talent in the world, if you are not persistent, you are not really going to make a difference. If you look at Alexander the Great, here he way this young guy got off with a bunch of his buddies on the turkish coast and ended up conquering the known world. He wouldn’t give up, he just kept on going. Same with the artist or any individual on this life journey, as bad as it gets you have to find something within yourself that keeps you going. It is like a marathon, the last part that is often the hardest bit.
Magus has developed into an internet business, how did that happen?
We had a presence on the internet as soon as it was available and it has developed from there. We have over 65,000 items online now. It not only helps to have mail-order but the internet is very good for advertising locally. People are aware, they know where we are, what we are doing, and the new things that come along. It has a big impact on both the mail order and the retail sales as well.
You are certified to ship to a lot of prisons, how did you get into that?
It was really something we fell into. We had a catalog we sent out, and prisoners started requesting it. With a ‘captive’ audience these people talk, and we developed some very good customers in many of these places. When they get out some will come to the store and talk to us, and thank us. It has always been really rewarding over the years, we have always tried to do our best for them.
You carry just about everything..
We sometimes say, “If we don’t carry it you probably don’t need it!”
What are things that many people miss when they visit the store?
It is amazing that we have a whole wall of with 600-700 kinds of herbs, and some don’t realize we sell herbs. We sell an awful lot of them! We offer a lot of services like Shiatsu massage with Mela, and herb consults with Liz. We have readers every day that includes both Tarot and Palmistry. We have a whole lot of statues, and a vast array of incense. We always go out of our way looking for unique incense. It probably helps that we are practitioners here ourselves so we are always looking for good loose incense. We encourage people to bring in what they are looking for, and then we can probably track it down and offer it. If there is something someone wants to look at, and we don’t have it in the store, we are always happy to bring it into the store. We get items in usually within 4-5 days and if they want it fine, if not fine. We do it so they can have the opportunity to see what it is like. The customer is the reason we are here. You can have the best stuff in the world but it requires the loyalty of our customers to keep us going.
Do you have any plans for expansion or a move?
You never know how things may present themselves. We do the mail order, we have the store, we distribute publishers titles. We import titles from a lot of small European presses, from Germany, Poland, England, and we distribute those titles. We do distribute to other meta physical stores around the country. We wholesale a lot, the books, the statues, the incense. Things do change quickly, and the world is a much smaller place. Dinkytown has changed. It is not what it was nineteen years ago. At this rate we’ll be the oldest business here! We sure never expected that when we started!
Magus has always been really supportive of the Pagan community, what is your philosophy about that?
We do talk about the community. When we talk about community, it starts with yourself. If we believe in community, then we have to practice it. I am a great believer that if you feel your way of life is correct, then you should be leading by example. How do you conduct your life? Do you feel that it is something other people may want to follow? If we look at history, people have been only too keen to browbeat people into the way they believe. If we want to move forward, then we should influence by example. I think Magus and other businesses, working for and with the community is a great way to start.