Jeff Musial, a frequent
visitor to Whimsic Alley,
tries a magical wand.
By Maryam Henein
Once inside, you feel as if you’ve stumbled upon thousands have made a pil-
a hidden street in Old World London. The floor is grimage. Many loyalists find
painted to look like cobblestone, and tiny shops the location online and come from all over, as far
offer all of the things a discerning wizard would away as Russia and Australia, to visit. “A lot of people
want. Phoenix Wands, for example, sells an array of come in saying we’re the reason they’ve come to
wooden wands crafted in India; across the way is Southern California,” Goldin tells The Connection.
Habber & Dasher, where you can find wizard wear During one recent sunny Friday afternoon,
such as robes, school sweaters and accompanying Goldin directs a patron from Orange County down
striped ties. For sweets there’s Pilcher & Botts the makeshift alley to the shop within the shop
Confectioners; they purvey everything from mes- where she can find a Hogwarts crest and a
senger-owl eggs to troll boogers. And at the far end, Gryffindor button. The customer, who got wind of
the HP Wizard store carries more licensed Harry the store from watching a segment on Entertainment
Potter items than anywhere else in the world. Tonight, is putting together a Harry Potter basket for
The store, modeled after author J.K. Rowling’s her nephew. A few minutes later, a couple and their
famous Diagon Alley, also features items you’d daughter ask Goldin where they can find an “I LOVE
expect to see in Albus Dumbledore’s or Professor HERMIONE” patch to iron on her favorite blouse.
Snape’s office: crystal balls, cages for obedient owls, Put the words “whimsic” and “alley” together
fancy bottles for potions and feather quills. and you get the word “whimsically.” “We cater to
Prior to opening Whimsic Alley, owner Stan people’s whimsy,” explains Goldin, which is why not
Goldin got his start on the Net not with Harry all of the shops conform to the wizard theme. One
Potter but with Pokemon. After buying his then 13- specializes in The Nightmare Before Christmas prod-
year-old son some Pokemon cards, Goldin decided ucts, while another highlights The Simpsons.
to open the packs and sell individual ones on eBay. With so many fans, it’s no wonder Goldin hopes
An online store followed, and soon the 54-year- to expand. For example, he’d like to provide patrons
old, who has a background in finance and database with a meeting room and monthly readings, and
development, was one of the largest Pokemon deal- many have expressed interest in holding parties in
ers around. the space. He also wants to add sound effects, so
It was only when he noticed that the little crea- someone trying out a wand could wave it and hear
ture from Japan was losing popularity that he began a boom or glass breaking.
looking for the next hottest thing. He used a little “We got the appearance down pat,” Goldin says.
intuition, passion and business sense, and the best- “Now I want to make it more interactive.” C
selling Harry Potter series came to mind. Besides, he
was already an avid fan himself. Maryam Henein is a Los Angeles–based freelance
For six years Goldin sold Harry Potter items journalist and researcher. She writes for publications
online out of his Santa Monica home. He had such as Premiere, Los Angeles Magazine and Whole
attracted more than 90,000 customers before there Life Times, and is currently working on her first
was even talk about making a movie. Eventually the novel, The Girl Who Called Coyote.
neighbors started complaining, and Goldin was
forced to search for a commercial space.
FOR MORE THAN a year now, Whimsic pay particular attention to
Alley in Santa Monica, California, has the street where the sorcerers
been enchanting youngsters, adults, shop, which was the look and
magicians and Muggles alike. Commonly feel he wanted to emulate.
referred to in cyberspace as “Harry Pot- Today, Whimsic Alley is
ter’s Place,” the place is as much a theme easily the leading destination
park as it is a retail store. among Harry Potter fans;
PHOTOS BY TOM HINKLEY, STUDIO 1501
Name: Whimsic Alley
Owner: Stan Goldin
2717 Wilshire Blvd.
great place to
go to. I’ve
Potter books, calendars,
toys, music, video games
and computer games from
Costco for resale. I’ve also
bought supplies such as ink
and printer cartridges for
the business.”—Stan Goldin
“I decided that if I was going to do this, I
wanted to appeal to Harry Potter fans, so I hired a The Costco Connection
Hollywood set designer to create the interior,” A two-disc Special Edition version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire will be available
explains Goldin. He handed the stylist a couple of this month in Costco warehouses and at costco.com, along with the first three Harry
books and a Harry Potter video, and told him to Potter movies. Members can find Harry Potter books and video games on costco.com.