Waukesha joke shop knows the trick to staying in business

Published on: 3/25/2015

It's no joke: the Jest for Fun Joke Shop has changed (sleight of) hands.

The Main Street mainstay, though, will still be a magical place.

Jeff Campbell, after 36 years of running the shop at 265 Main St., is turning the business over to Jon Archimede, and he said not much will change.

An old trick done well

'The store's been in business for 43 years,' said Campbell, 62, of Waukesha. 'I've been with it from the very beginning.'

He started working there part time, when Don Lamb, who founded the store in 1972, still operated it. That turned to full time, and in 1979, when he bought the store, it turned into 'quadruple time.'

'I've done magic for 53 years, since I was a little kid. It was a beautiful opportunity to work with Don Lamb when he owned the store.'

The sale of the store became final March 1, and Archimede, 22, will carry on in the same fashion as Campbell, offering 'good clean family fun.'

'Jon has the same morals I do,' said Campbell, 'and he loves the magic.'

The store sells what you might expect in a joke store, including hand buzzers, whoopee cushions and fake dog poo — the top seller.

'No. 2 is No. 1,' Campbell said. 'It's true.'

Magic Christian

But the shop's specialty is magic — card tricks, rope tricks, linking rings and Gospel magic.

'Primarily, I'd call myself a magician,' he said, 'or a servant of the Lord masquerading as a magician.'

Campbell uses magic to explain his faith, like a rope trick where three ropes become one, representing the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

'It's a visual tool to help us comprehend the incomprehensible,' he said. 'We also incorporate fun into it. People think if you're a Christian, there's no fun in it. That's not true. Humor definitely plays a part.'

Ageless wonders

And magic isn't just for kids.

'It gives you a moment when you can suspend reality and be a kid again,' he said.

Archimede, of Waukesha, got hooked on magic as a kid, when he got a magic kit. He started frequenting the store and hanging out with Campbell.

'When I was in the fifth or sixth grade, I started coming here on my way home from middle school,' he said.

They developed a friendship, and when Campbell told him he was thinking of retiring, possibly closing the store, Archimede suggested he take it over.

'It's the oldest and largest magic shop in Wisconsin,' said Archimede. 'It's a downtown Waukesha icon.'

That old magic

The deal was sealed, although Campbell won't be out of the picture entirely.

'I will still perform professionally,' he said. 'I perform at birthday parties, corporate work, Gospel presentations at various churches. I've even done magic in prisons. Right now, I'm gearing up for a lot of Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquets.'

He will also remain involved in the shop's Kid's Magic Club, which he started four years ago.

Archimede welcomes Campbell's involvement.

'Everything stays the same,' he said. 'We're still going to do the Kid's Magic Club. It will still be an environment the family can come into to enjoy.'

While Campbell is looking forward to having more time to perform and devote to his ministry, he will miss the people who came into the shop — especially one older couple that stopped in every week. The two would look at themselves in the fun house mirror and laugh, then thank Campbell and leave.

'I don't think they ever spent a dime,' he said.