Joke shop said to inspire Harry Potter author up for sale

J.K Rowling is said to have based Zonko's joke shop on Aha Ha Ha Jokes and Novelties in Edinburgh.

Sale: Bill Cowan wants to sell up shop. <strong>SWNS</strong>
Sale: Bill Cowan wants to sell up shop. SWNS

A joke shop believed to have been the inspiration behind a store in Hogsmeade, a fictional village in the Harry Potter novels, has gone up for sale.

After 23 years, the owners of Aha Ha Ha Jokes and Novelties, on West Bow, Edinburgh, are selling up.

The shop is thought to have been the basis for Zonko’s Joke Shop in Hogsmeade, where Hogwarts students browsed the shelves for practical jokes in the Harry Potter series written by J.K Rowling.

Actor Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, has visited, along with actress Emma Thompson, who played clairvoyant Professor Sybill Trelawney.


Owners Bill and Cathi Cowan opened the shop in 1996, but are now selling up.

The couple believe it is time to ‘modernise’ the shop – although it was considered revolutionary when it became the first joke shop in the world to use barcode scanners.

They took over a vacant premises which was once home to another joke shop, Score Commotions – much like Fred and George Weasley taking over Zonko’s in the Harry Potter books.

Bill has loved bringing joy to children and their families. SWNS

But Bill said he wants out now, to avoid “another iconic business run into the ground by some old farts”.


Bill said: “Seeing how the joke shop was sorely missed, we decided to reinvent it as Aha Ha Ha Jokes & Novelties.

“When we opened in 1996 we immediately caused a stir, not least because of our shop sign which made the heritage lobby apoplectic.

“It was fantastic free publicity.

“We were revolutionary for our time and were the first joke and novelty shop in the world that used barcode scanners.

“I remember having to train our suppliers on how to work with the codes.

“I often joke about the fact that we currently hold more items of stock than Lidl.”

Bill says he tried to make the shop more upmarket by improving the lighting and turning the store into a self-service styled shop.


“To be honest with you though I have loved my time here and it certainly beats selling diesel parts,” Bill adds.

“This business sells nostalgia and some of the props and pranks we have never get old.

“You see grandparents wanting their grandkids to share the same laughs that they did.

“That is what it is all about for me.

“To see the joy that we bring into people’s lives – it is just such a wonderful thing to witness.”

The couple are looking forward to having more free time in their retirement, with Bill vowing to explore the world and the unseen parts of Edinburgh he hasn’t had the time to enjoy.

Zak Riding, 23, who has been the manager of the store for five years, said: “I have worked in the industry for a long time and would not want to see the knowledge I have acquired go to waste.

“I would buy the shop myself if I had the money but I hope to continue working here under a new owner.

“The shop could become even better with a modern digital vision in place.”

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