In times of trouble, plague and Covid who better to turn to than the Wizard of Hogwarts? Such must have been the thinking behind the flagship Harry Potter store at 22nd and Broadway in Manhattan which opened this past June. The three story, 21,000 square feet space is quite simply enormous. With fifteen separate sections to choose from, it proudly boasts that it holds the record for the largest collection of Harry Potter merchandise anywhere in the entire world, which is quite an accomplishment.
In a city where social distancing is still a very real thing, this Harry Potter store was nonetheless jam-packed with giddy enthusiasts of every shape, size and orientation, be they Wizard or Muggle. Safety is a prime concern, however, and masks are strictly enforced. (At some time during the afternoon the rest of my party got lost through the maze of books, costumes and paraphernalia, at which point I lowered my mask half an inch so I could use my cell phone. I was immediately reprimanded by one of the seemingly thousands of employees at the store, and the inference was clear. Wear the mask properly or be turned into a newt.) You’re allowed to handle pretty much anything in the store and that which you can’t handle they make sure to keep locked high above the crowd. To be sure, there is no test driving a Quidditch broom!
As most everyone knows by now, Harry Potter is the hero of the series written by British author J. K. Rowling. It features a young wizard and his friends as they attend Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and battle the ultimate evil, Lord Voldemort. First published in 1997, Harry Potter quickly became a global sensation. There were seven books in all and as of 2018 they sold more than 500 million copies worldwide, making them the best-selling book series in history. Eight enormously successful movies were made, a triumphant play version, amusement parks and so on. In 2016 the total value of the Harry Potter franchise was estimated at $25 billion.
Considering the financial success behind the works of Ms. Rowling, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the Harry Potter Store in Manhattan is, first and foremost, a store. They sell everything. From wands to jewelry to books to T shirts to the unique Butterbeer (a healthy $10 a cup!) this is a franchise which knows how to make money. And judging from the sizeable crowd lined up outside (there was a wait list of forty-five minutes to an hour), they were going to do quite well, thank you, covid or no covid. There is only one real amusement section there, a virtual reality tour into Hogwarts Castle, and it was sold out when we were there.
If you are one of the millions of fans who live for the tales of Harry Potter and his magical friends, this is the place for you. It also serves as a reminder that no matter how dark times may get, it’s good to know there’s a wizard out there looking over us.
All photos by T. Sportiello