Imagicka, a small Downtown Binghamton business that opened its doors in 2000, stands out on a street filled with popular restaurants and chain outlets with its eye-catching purple banner, labeled: “Your Refuge from the Ordinary.” Entering the store is a unique sensory experience, as customers are met with intermixing scents of lavender, sage and patchouli from the various incense sticks and candles lined up by the door, while their eyes are drawn to the astonishing assortment of mystical objects that cover the space from floor to ceiling.
Robert Wandell, co-owner of Imagicka, founded the store after leaving his job at IBM.
“In the year 2000 I left IBM and my job as an engineer there, and I had been making drums and selling drums at festivals and I wanted to pursue that, so I followed that path, and the rest of it was sort of built from there,” Wandell said. “I’ve always been a scientist. It’s one of the things I’ve wanted to be since I was a young child — to, you know, understand the world. When I first went to Binghamton University, I was in the physics department for one semester before I went to the engineering department. Physics has always been a fascination for me as well.”
Wandell said that there is science behind objects he carries, but that it is often misconstrued as “magic.” He explained that the stones labradorite and moldavite are his favorite at the moment. Labradorite is an iridescent, colorful stone that is said to have physically healing properties. Moldavite, coincidentally, has recently gone viral on TikTok, with crystals growing in popularity and people sharing the experiences they’ve had while carrying or wearing the stone. Wandell elaborated on his acquisition of moldavite to sell at Imagicka.
“We’ve been selling it for more than 18 years,” Wandell said. “We went from selling one or two pieces a week to selling six or seven a day. And then we ran out for a month. We’ve got really good connections but now those connections are so strained as far as people wanting stuff from them, that for the first time ever they are limiting or rationing how much you can get. And stones, not jewelry, are limited to 50 grams — and that is not a lot for stones. Usually we would meet with them when they came in from the Czech Republic, but now because of [COVID-19] they can’t get in. So now we have to have Zoom meetings with them and pick them out online, which is better than just ordering blind, but it’s not like being there like it used to be, you know?”
Wandell said that moldavite will create some changes in one’s life and accelerate them in the direction that they are going.
“You can also modulate it,” Wandell said. “You don’t have to wear it every day. It is from one particular meteorite that landed in the Moldau River valley in the Czech Republic 14.7 million years ago, and it’s the only green glassy one of its type. We sell tektites over there for $8 that are black glass that you can get from Argentina — they’re cool, they’re great [but] they’re not moldavite. Moldavite is one of a kind, and there really is no more of it there. The people who’ve been on that land have been mining it now for 40 years.”
Every item in the store, crystals or otherwise, is carefully curated by Wandell, who balances his own passions and the interests of customers.
“I try to listen a lot to the customer base that comes in,” Wandell said. “That’s the biggest thing, so I have gotten some things that aren’t really in my forte. Also, I don’t really want to sell the same things that other people are selling. I mean, this is very much. If you’re going to have a small store like this and be successful, you really have to know your stuff in a niche. So if you’ve got two aisles in Walmart that sell something, I don’t want to sell anything in those two aisles, right? There’s no point.”
This effort does not go unpaid — the store is a popular destination for BU students and locals alike. Luckily for its fans, Imagicka has been able to stay open in spite of the pandemic, and remains a unique and irreplaceable facet of Downtown Binghamton.