By Jef Rietsma
A longtime fixture in downtown Colon is relocating its day-to-day operations to Vicksburg.
Rick Fisher, who has owned and operated FAB Magic for its 19 years on East State Street, said he is moving Sept. 1 to a recently redeveloped, 2,400-square-foot building on East Highway Street.
Fisher, 63, said he plans to keep his current store for storage and special events. He and his family also plan to continue to live in Colon, although a granddaughter he is raising will continue to attend Vicksburg High School as a school-of-choice student.
Fisher said the decision to relocate caused many sleepless nights. Ultimately, however, he is convinced Vicksburg will offer a stronger business climate and greater support overall.
On a recent weekday, “I did $13 in business,” Fisher said. “This is supposed to be prime tourist season and we do $13 in sales? That’s not enough to even turn the lights on for the day. It’s just reached a point where I can’t justify keeping up a storefront in Colon.”
Fisher said his online business remains strong and the impending move will not impact that. But more foot traffic and a healthier business climate are what Fisher said FAB Magic is seeking. He said Vicksburg offers unlimited potential to fulfill those needs.
The idea of operating online only crossed his mind. He said 2020, in fact, was his best year ever due to the demand from online sales. The store itself was closed for six months but the volume of sales that year soared. Still, Fisher said there are benefits to having a walk-in retail component, and FAB Magic needs a store.
“I like having a store; it gives me purpose on a daily basis and it gives legitimacy in this business because there aren’t many of us left,” Fisher said. “So we had to make a decision based on numbers.”
Fisher said he was enamored with the vibe in Vicksburg while visiting the community during its old-car show in early June. He called the experience “amazing.”
“I was there at 9 a.m. and there was close to a thousand people already on the streets. They had a band playing, tents set up, vendors, they have a social district … it was everything I’ve wanted Colon to be,” Fisher said. “You can sit outside and have a drink; they closed the street, the chamber of commerce brought in bands and it was like, ‘This is what you’re supposed to do. This is what a chamber is supposed to be spearheading.’”
He admitted the relocation of FAB Magic could be viewed simply as a move by a disgruntled business owner. Fisher was careful in explaining why Colon is not going to be in his long-term business plan.
“My heart is still here in Colon because this is where I got my start in magic,” he said. “But we’re not getting any backing from the village. They just aren’t receptive to making things better for the businesses here. Meanwhile, I got three emails yesterday from Vicksburg (chamber of commerce), telling me, ‘We are so excited to have you here. This is going to be great.’ I don’t get that kind of attention here; I didn’t know how to react. It was refreshing.”
Fisher said his relationship with Vicksburg officials started with a phone call he made earlier this year to its village manager, Jim Mallery. Fisher was curious to find out what kind of locations were available there and what level of support he might expect.
It took a short conversation with Mallery for Fisher to get the proverbial ball rolling.
“Jim said Vicksburg would lay out the red carpet for me, they would do whatever they would have to do to get me there. That’s really gratifying,” Fisher said. “I knew Vicksburg is a place on the upswing. Its ongoing redevelopment of the old paper mill is a monumental thing for the village, it recently finished installing new infrastructure, they just brought in Mackenzie’s Bakery from Kalamazoo and just this week it was announced that they were awarded a $3.7 million business-development grant” from the Economic Development Administration. “To me, that’s all very exciting and it shows that the people running Vicksburg are bending over backwards to make it an inviting, business-friendly community.”
Fisher said the new beginning in Vicksburg will also allow him to introduce magic to a community where it is a novelty and relatively unknown. For example, Fisher said he would like to start a magic week celebration next summer in Vicksburg.
Fisher said he has a full-time metal and woodshop employee who will continue to operate at a location in Colon.