The wonderful and mysterious "Magic Touch" neon sign on the northeast corner of Hoyt Street and Third Street in Carroll Gardens has long driven me mad with curiosity. ("Italian Cuisine," "Cocktail Lounge") For a long time all I could learn about it was that my former longshoreman landlord could remember going there (proof that is was once an actual restaurant!); that it had closed in the '70s sometime (proof that it had been an Olde Brooklyn kinda joint); and that the space was now an artist's studio.
Not much to go on. But I never stopped asking questions, and lately I've felt that I've gathered enough information to deliver a report of not-altogether-specious quality. Much of what I learned came from a chance conversation with the owner of the equally mysterious M. Poggi Wholesale Confectionery at No. 293 Smith. That's right. I actually met him! And he's a nice, talkative guy! I was walking by, the door was open, and this stout, bald, bespectacled man jingling coins in his pocket was standing on the sidewalk passing the time of day. We talked for 15 minutes, and he was willing to answer questions about anything. Turns out he provides most of the delis and corner stores in the area with their supply of candy and gum. Whaddaya know.
Anyway, I digress. He remembered the Magic Touch. It was a "shady club," he said. He was pretty sure racketeering went on inside. And "girls" could be found there. Mr. Poggi himself never stepped foot inside the place. He's a clean-living kinda guy.
Other remembrances came from the folks on the South Brooklyn Network, who recalled Cadillacs and Lincolns parked outside all the time. Magic Touch reportedly opened in the '40s. It was owned by a guy named Mike, had a bartender named Timmy and a waitress named Ruthie. It was apparently the kind of place where you saw nothing and said nothing. What I wouldn't give to have a first-hand account of the interior and the goings-on on a typical night.
That sign, though. That sign casts a magical spell. I've met many people who talk about it in rhapsodic terms. There's something about it that makes you want to believe the Magic Touch was a special place.