Fry’s Electronics Has Fizzled Out Completely

2020 and all its ills have claimed another stalwart among PC builders and electronics hobbyists: Fry’s announced yesterday that they have closed up shop for good after nearly 36 years in business both as a brick-and-mortar wonderland and an online mecca for all things electronic.

According to Fry’s website (PDF copy for posterity), all 31 stores across nine states were suddenly and permanently shuttered on Wednesday the 24th, citing changes in the retail industry and the widespread difficulties wrought by the pandemic. Signs of the retailer’s growing challenges were seen back in 2019 when the company began shifting toward a consignment model in an attempt to cut overhead and liability.

Burbank Fry’s electronics [Image source: Bryce Edwards CC-BY 2.0]
Sadly, I never set foot inside of a Fry’s though I hear it was an experience beginning with the themed entrances found at many of the locations. Now it seems I never will. Where I live, Microcenter is king, and it has been truly awesome to watch the hobby electronics section expand from a single four-foot panel in a dark corner to the multi-aisle marketplace it is today. I keep imagining that Microcenter suddenly went out of business instead, and it makes me want to cry.

So where can a person go to pick up some quick components now that Radio Shack and Fry’s are no more? Of course there’s the previously mentioned Microcenter, but you should also look for old-school supply stores in your area. They may not have an Adafruit section and they’re probably not open after 5:00PM or on the weekends, but these stores are still kicking and they need us now more than ever. We’ve previously reported on gems like Tanner’s Electronics which sadly closed its doors almost a year ago. Help spread the word about your favorites that are still open in the comments below.

Thank you [Ryan], [John], and [Jack] for tipping us off.

[Main image source: San Jose Fry’s by Bryce Edwards; CC-BY 2.0]

116 thoughts on “Fry’s Electronics Has Fizzled Out Completely

  1. I’d like to recommend Electronic Plus in San Rafael. They’re everything a Radio Shack should have been. And they’re open Saturdays.

    https://electronicplus.com/

    Very pricey but they know their stuff.

    Let’s use this thread to recommend said old-school supply stores, maybe it’ll help keep them alive!

      1. It’s still there, and still pretty much the same place it’s always been. Alas that means that it hasn’t fully kept up with some of the progress in the industry; last time I was there (a bit over a year ago, a bit before the pandemic hit) you still couldn’t buy solder paste or SMD soldering tools there. They do have a substantial selection of maker-oriented stuff from Adafruit, Sparkfun, and Velleman.

        1. Took my daughter to YDI maybe three years ago when they were running a class on soldering. She didn’t care for it very much, but she did it and got the experience. Every time I go to MC it’s packed, though it’s usually a Saturday morning.

    1. “Pricey” that’s the key – its consumers like us that have driven this stae of affairs. WE have chosen the route of lowest price and now we are paying the cost. We’ve been conned by the (pick your online purveyor of cheap goods) $1.99 including free shipping from the other side of the planet. With Government subsidized shipping on all these imported products a local retailer just cant compete.

      If we want local stores to survive WE need to stop comparing prices to online and accept the local Price – but we are all too greedy….

      One day in the not too distant future I fear we WILL pay the price.

      1. Greed is often the furthest thing from a maker’s mind. Necessity, poverty, eco-friendliness, thriftiness, all yes. We’re probably talking about a hobby when we talk about buying small part quantities online.

        I would say greed might be on the side of a local retailer who thinks huge markups are ok due to monopoly like local markets.

        If a shop is open for the love of it, their prices will be reasonable. If they’re looking to get rich on the backs of people doing what they love, I don’t mind if they disappear.

        1. I agree with you John. After seeing this article, I spent some time looking for some of the “surplus electronic” stores that may still be around. Although many are “brick-and-mortar” stores, many are also doing business online. Currently, I only know of SKYCRAFT in Orlando, Florida and used to visit them quite often years ago while dwelling in the area. Their prices were reasonable, if not great, for most of their items (still are) BUT they had HUGE markups on “obsolete” integrated circuits and such. Of the online surplus dealers, I saw that they too had HUGE markups on “obsolete” integrated circuits and other semiconductor parts. In some cases, they just assign a random price to the item ($111.88) and don’t even know what it is(!). I see this a lot on eBay as well… and THOSE items NEVER sell…

          Sidenote: I had a chance to visit SKYCRAFT in January of 2020 and picked up an INTEL NUC DE3815TYBE single-board computer. It’s a single-core INTEL ATOM based unit with on-board 4GB MMC FLASH-drive and an 8GB SATA SSD running embedded WINDOWS8. It was $11.95! You can’t even purchase a Raspberry Pi for that amount! As I have no use for WINDOWS, its now running LibreELEC as a standalone media server out of the on-board 4GB MMC FLASH-drive (no SATA!). :)

          As a hobbyist, I too am on a limited budget , so replacing some obsolete IC in an obsolete gizmo for the pure egoic sake of saying “I did it!” might be more easily done with an AVR that I can encode the “function” into, or perhaps a PLD and just wire it in with an adapter board. OR cram the function of that gizmo into an SoC design (like the Apple I replica, etc.) and wire it into the chassis.

          I recognize that in cases like TMS9900, it may be difficult to find one if you are trying to restore a broken TI99 computer, but then again, typically it is “shoe-string budget” hobbyists that would pursue such an en-devour as most “for-profit” businesses would have already upgraded their technology to keep up with the times. I know of some cases where factory processes are still using 50 year old technology and perhaps that’s the EXTREME niche that these surplus stores (ans some eBay vendors) are attempting to target with their overpriced “obsolete” IC’s … waiting for the “big fish” to come along and bite (except there ARE NO “big fish” in their market of hobbyists!).

          I’ll admit that I’ve never really understood the “marketing concepts and methodolgies” of many “marketers”…. :(

          BTW: On the TMS9900-JL, does any one know what the part marking of TMX9900-JL is? The date code is 1977 and it is a TMS9900 but the “X” instead of an “S” throws me. Is it an engineering sample? I have no means to test it.

          Peace and blessings,
          Johnny

      2. I agree with your basic idea but you can’t just say “shop local no matter what” and expect good to come from it. Most of us never did have very many local stores to chose from and certainly don’t have many now. If you just buy what they sell for the price they sell it there is no competition. You are going to drive prices up and selection and quality down.

        A lot of local stores were always really unreasonably bad about price and selection *cough* Rat Shack *cough* or hours that don’t serve working people “almost every mom and pop store”. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that local stores serving local areas have a lot more overhead than a big warehouse serving the world but there are still limits of what is reasonable.

        I like to think that we “vote” with our dollars and they should have to do something to earn that vote!

      3. I cannot agree more. When a local Radio Shack went under, I went and check out its “mark-downs”. All I can say is I am surprised how much they “mark-up” their price and I am happy to see them gone. There is rarely a time which I needed something that I cannot afford to wait a week or even a month to get.

        Frys electronics actually have reasonably price components. Their stock may not be complete but it is usually a present trip visiting Frys. I will miss Frys.

  2. When I lived in Minneapolis I loved going to Ax-Man surplus. I’ve even made sure make a pilgrimage there when I have visited since moving away. Not spectacular on electronics, but hey have interesting stuff and the basics. I found the chemistry and other supplies to make for an excellent browsing experience. It’s like a project idea factory.

    https://www.ax-man.com/

    1. “made with genuine ax-man parts” is a badge of honor sticker.

      I agree micro center is the best alternative to radio shack or fryes.

      Radio shack is still alive as mail order. Radioshack.com

  3. If you’re in southern Ontario, Canada, Sayal Electronics is a brick and mortar place you can get parts, and their stores are generally well stocked.

    https://www.sayal.com

    Sometimes their staff know their stuff, sometimes they don’t speak English / French well.

    For a store with a lot of weird and much more knowledgeable staff, try A1 Surplus, on Queen West. It’s hidden in a little office strip block on the corner, pay attention to the signs. http://a1parts.com/

    Good store. I start coming in looking for radio receiver parts and they’re like “foxhole radio?” Yes but also no, and we had a fun conversation about my latest designs. They’ll have most components in stock in the back, and out front there is an ever changing supply of junk, and we all know how much we love a good pile of junk.

    1. A1 is pretty good, haven’t managed to get there in a while. I used to go into TO to do “the rounds” of all the decent stores, but since those have dwindled down to basically just this place I haven’t made a special trip.

      Have tried to order off their website before, but got an order together, submitted, annnd got email back saying everything was out of stock, so not very trusting of it at all, especially since it does not look like it changed.

      A place I like, though they could do more of the electronic, but have a bit of electromechanical, and other varieties of surplus junk and materials to get ideas from etc, is brantfordsurplus.com , dang, they don’t really have a department, put electronic in the search and it starts to get interesting. Store will take you an hour or so to go through, stuff for the SO too, like a big liquidation store with hacky benefits.

      Then also, hitting up the surplus aisles in Princess Auto is often worthwhile, some fans, actuators, heatsinks, random mechanical bits turn up in there. Occasionally they even price consumer electronics in there cheap enough to be worth buying LOL.

    2. >A1 Surplus, on Queen West. It’s hidden in a little office strip block on the corner, pay attention to the signs.
      A1 is where active surplus would send you if they didn’t have what you needed. RIP active!

      1. A1 ended up with most of Active’s stock when the family decided to retire. Graeme, who was Active’s store manager, now runs the Gorilla Store (complete with the original – and smelly – Professor Banana) . While most of his stock is gift oriented, he keeps his hand in the surplus market, and can source some remarkable equipment on request.

        Don’t forget Creatron’s two stores in Toronto. Janice, who runs the Scarborough one, is incredibly knowledgeable. The weird little place under the Home hardware on College St still exists for all your connector and switch needs, too.

        In BC, RP Electronics just closed their Burnaby store (dammit). Lee’s might be the only bricks n’ mortar left.

        In the almost-as-cheap-as-aliexpress-but-in-Canada mail order side, Universal Solder (Yorkton, SK: https://www.universal-solder.ca/) and Simcoe DIY (Barrie, ON: https://www.simcoe-diy.ca/) are worth a look. Volker of Universal Solder designs some neat projects. I did get a knock-off JYE-Tech kit from Simcoe, though, but everything else I got from them has been okay.

        1. Glad someone else mentioned Creatron! Janice, Lawrence, and John are always a big help.

          The component selection at the College Home Hardware isn’t as broad as I’d like, and most parts don’t appear to be re-stocked anymore – but there’s something about shopping for components in an area “in the basement, through a hole in the wall” that makes it more fun.

          For Adafruit and Sparkfun stuff, Elmwood Electronics (Toronto, ON: https://elmwoodelectronics.ca/) is also good. No retail presence, but you can pick up orders if you’re in Toronto, and their shipping is quick otherwise. BuyAPi (Ottawa, ON: https://buyapi.ca/) also has some Adafruit and Sparkfun stuff, as well as Raspberry Pis.

          Solarbotics (Calgary, AB: https://solarbotics.com/) has an assortment of kits, and also has the local Active Tech (https://active123.com) store in Calgary, so there’s a retail presence, too.

          I’ve had good luck getting stuff from Micah at A2D Electronics (Ottawa, ON: https://a2delectronics.ca/) in the past. Stuff hasn’t been restocked for a while, but it looks like the business has changed hands and is being revived.

      1. In Montreal, there’s Abra Electronics. I went in once years ago, never bought anything, but I meant to. I think they do mailorder.

        Addison was such a great place when we found it about 1974, when I went about 2012, I was surprised to find the aisles of parts were no longer, consumer electronics replacing it. I’m not sure if parts can be had from the counter.

        Etco, Corenet, North American Electronics, Payette Radio, Cesco, they were all important parts places in the seventies, and all gone, starting about 1980.

        I never did see a reason why Active Electronics faded.

  4. San Mateo Electronics Supply in (surprise) San Mateo, CA is good too. Everything from vacuum tubes to chips. Thy even have two working RCA tube test machines, mostly used by musicians and ‘boat anchor’ ham radio owners.

    1. Several years ago, when I lived in that area, I’d also buy components from Jameco Electronics. While they are primarily a mail-order house, they had a will call that would have the order ready the same day it was placed.

  5. I live near Erie PA and like Kristina never been to a Fry’s since the closest was in Chicago. I do make a yearly trek to a MicroCenter 80 miles away. It is always sad to see a electronic distributor go out of business. Erie had Warren Radio a couple of decades back. It had a big pegboard full of Jameco products and a policy that if they didn’t have what you were looking for they would order it.

  6. Fry’s could have been Newegg if they’d have taken what worked from Outpost and further refined it. Outpost had their schitt together, orders I made in ’99 came smooth, cheap and troublefree, then I maybe made one purchase after the Fry’s buyout and was underimpressed. Then I think they stopped shipping to Canada altogether, or the online site just sucked so bad I never returned. Actually took the rest of online retail a half dozen years to match the Outpost experience. Some still ain’t there. Anyhoo, I used to hear good things about the brick and mortar side, but there was never one in range.

    1. Awww man, I always wanted to look at that bit of Tottenham Court Road near the British Museum and UCL, but on maps/streetview now, it looks like one store started selling Apple phones then everything turned hipster.

  7. As a visitor from the U.K. to BlackHat & DefCon in Las Vegas back in the early 2010’s, a trip (or two, possibly more) down to Fry’s at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard was an amazing experience. Any electronics store with a cafe/coffee shop at its centre where I could happily spend many hours browsing and purchasing Leathermans and Maglites for 1/4 of their price back home – I had to be sensible with weight in the suitcase – was something I’ll miss.

  8. The only Fry’s in the Chicago area was a 45-60 minute drive, so I only visited on rare occasions or if I had other business to be in that suburb, but it was always an adventure. Their media stock (DVDs and video games, computer books) was better than anyone else’s, but that market doesn’t really exist anymore with downloadable music, movies and games — and computer books were always going to be out of date.

    Their stock on stereo equipment and large appliances was always top-notch: good place to compare for listening to speakers, amps, etc. (but I’ve got Abt’s headquarters showroom practically around the corner). I don’t know where most audiophiles would go for listening anymore, that’s a big loss (since Best Buy’s selection is pretty slim, do they even have those “magnolia” rooms anymore?)

    They were fun, they were interesting, they’ll be missed.

    1. Always loved the Frys themes for their stores in California. Mayan Temple? UFO crashing into the building? LETS GO! My local Frys store in Downers Grove Illinois didn’t really have a theme. It was a beige box with some pictures of Downers Grove pioneers. Boring! That location really could have used a giant squid crashing a UFO into a volcano or something.

      Nutron Computers and Electronics was located in nearby Lombard and was by far the best electronics I’d ever encountered in the midwest. That place was like a Digi-Key retail outlet; every component you’d ever need, PCB making supplies, tools, test equipment, etc. Sadly the place closed in the early 2000’s.

      We still have American Science and Surplus in Geneva, Evanston, and Milwaukee. The electronics selection is hit or miss, but it’s truly an oddball place and the high school kids working there are usually crank 80’s punk or new wave music over the store speakers.

      Well, thankfully we still have some MicroCenter goodness a few miles away in Westmont. If they were interested in a store facelift they might be able to find a fiberglass UFO for cheap out in CA.

      1. You-Do-It definitely is: I drove past a few weeks back and they were open. I’ve only been to Electronics Plus once: I happened to park across the street from it when in Littleton for other reasons, was surprised such a store still existed in 2019 (and was open on Saturday, no less), and had to stop in and check it out while I was there.

    1. Electronics Plus is small, but he packs a lot in there. Plus it’s just 10 mins from me. I have enjoyed some significant browsing at YDI, but they are more than an hour away so I don’t get there often. I’ve been in several Fry’s but I like YDI better.

    1. Denver/Boulder used to have a bunch of good electronics stores. I’m glad Sparkfun exists, coz all the others have folded. SF does fill a pretty different need than Gateway2000/Fizell’s/JBSaunders used to; I miss being able to get an ADC locally.

  9. Coincidentally enough, while driving near a Fry’s on Sunday I commented that I should go in there and buy some components to help keep them going. I didn’t stop. I guess it’s my fault. Sorry Fry’s fans.

    It was sad to see the Fry’s near my work (golf theme, meh) and then the one near my home (Mayan theme, cool) both close in the last year or so.

    No Microcenters within hundreds of miles of me.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do will call pickups at CircuitSpecialists.com in Tempe, AZ in the past, but don’t know if they allow that right now. Their online service isn’t horrible.

    For really weird or just-looking-to-see-what-I-find stuff, I hit Apache Reclamation in Phoenix. It’s filthy but full of cool electronic, mechanical, and miscellaneous surplus stuff…and some occasional garbage. If you have a few hours free, it’s worth wandering around there. Make sure you go in the back/warehouse area. It’s not necessarily obvious that you should go through certain doors.

  10. I don’t have any decent electronics stores near me after Radio Shack kicked the bucket. When I was active duty my friends and I would drive from Fort Hood to Austin to visit Fry’s on the weekends. After I left the military and I went on business trips to Cali I would always go out of my way to visit every Fry’s I could. I took tons of pictures for my kid’s and really hoped I would be able to show them at least one eventually. This news truly saddens me.

  11. It’s great for those of you that live in larger populated areas but what about those of us not in that class. The internet is a great thing in many ways however, we can clearly see what it is doing to local retail sales. Agreed, online sales makes it nearly impossible to compete price wise as long as freight doesn’t bite you, but time becomes the issue. I live in an area that has very little to offer now that R.S. is out. There isn’t ANY place less than 50 miles away that has anything. It’s a truly sad state of affairs.

  12. Near Baltimore, there’s only MicroCenter that I know of. North of Baltimore, and in Rockville outside Washington, DC. Minimum 25 minute drive for me to reach the closest one. We’ve also got a major Amazon hub, so same-day delivery is possible. Still, I like going to stores. Would love to hear about others.

    I’ve only been in one Fry’s store, and that was the one in Las Vegas. Sorry to see them go.

    1. A few years ago, store “opened” up that I wanted to like… had the right stuff on the sign, peering through the windows looked intriguing. Hours at first were theoretically 9-5 … right, so one day I manage to get down there about 5 after 9.. not open yet.. hang around a bit, staring in windows at the rest of the plaza, 9:25, still no sign of life.. and I had an appointment, so I’m gone.. okay, another day… a wednesday, arrive at 3pm… hours have changed… now only open until 2pm weds.. ok whatever.. maybe a month passes.. see their ad in local rag “Now open Saturdays” great, that’s a lot easier, 9-1pm, so this Sat is not good, next Saturday then, arrive around 11am… “Sorry, Family Emergency” on the door, seriously?? Well crap happens I guess… another week or two slips by, I find myself in the area at 2pm on a Friday, sweet, swing by… “Back in 5 minutes” is on the door, I go across to the coffee shop, grab a coffee, sit and read on my phone for 40 mins… not back, screw it, gotta go… a week or two more and I try on a Saturday again, this time on the door is “Closed permanently, out of business, thanks to my actually LOYAL customers.” and by then I’m not thinking “what a shame” I’m thinking “Good freaking riddance then you incompetent clown.”

      1. Sort of different, but that experience reminds me of a burrito place a couple blocks from where I used to live. Their hours were 9am-4pm; opening too late for breakfast for lots of people and closing too early for dinner for most. The burritos were great, but they only lasted a couple months.

        I made the lunch trip a couple times, but it was hard to justify going 5.5 miles for a lunch burrito when there was a Chipotle less than half a mile from work.

        1. Hah, yeah, there was what was supposed to be “the best seafood restaurant in town” that used to be open for dinner more years back than anyone in my gen could remember, but in my memory was only open 11-3 for lunch… I guess the two old folks homes nearby kinda kept it going, but it struggled on for years like that… but they never did any maintenance to the building, paint was all peeling outside, and when the roof finally got a leak the health inspectors closed it.

  13. Very sad to see Fry’s go! Living in the Eastern US, I wasn’t near one but went whenever I could … visited the Downer’s Grove, IL store around Christmas 2019. The shelves were 20-30% full and not a computer in the place, so I knew this day was coming.

    I was also very sad to see Radio Shack go, even though it was crappy in a lot of ways, but hey, I’ve been going since I was a kid back in the 60’s. Radio Shack wasn’t afraid to try innovative product ideas — a few were brilliant, a few were terrible and most were at least interesting. The best thing is, you could often get them cheap on closeout if you waited long enough and went through every week (my favorite hobby!).

    Oddly, there are still some independent places using the Radio Shack banner. One is in a truckstop in Breezewood, MD. I was there last year and it was still selling mostly Radio Shack products. It actually felt creepy and kind of wrong to be there, I’m not kidding! Of course I’ll go back as long as it’s there.

  14. Sad to see. I wish there was a place to go around here (Radio Shack was the last in this area, and it was sorely lacking). Everything I need, I have to ‘order up’ from adafruit or newegg, servo city, sometimes resort to Amazon, etc. Said as I’d love to support local businesses and a bit quicker turn-around when all your need is this one ‘part’ to finish off a project. Even computer parts is an on-line endeavor…. Staples (our computer/supply store) rarely has what I need…. The answer is ‘well, we can order it for you’ … “Yeah but that isn’t why I am here! I am more than capable of ordering myself!”

    Heard good things about Fry’s.

  15. Visited Fry’s once when visiting the Bay area in 2007. Also dropped by HSC Electronics.

    In the 90’s, locally we used to have some 5 Radio Shacks, and three independent electronics deals (Avec & Peoples were the two I visited the most). Now all are gone.

  16. Fond memories of browsing the cramped spaces of Al Lasher’s in Berkeley, California. It was truly a hacker’s emporium. Sad to learn that they just closed after ~60 years in business – (hope the link works)

    1. The Anaheim Fry’s closed last March. I used to work in Anaheim Hills and many of us were excited when that store opened. That and Orvac were frequent stops on my way home from work until 2001.

      MarVac should have been in my route too, but I just never made it there.

      Fry’s lost my interest some time back. Too many bad experiences with items, especially computers or main boards having been returned by (on one occasion at least 6) people, and never properly checked before going onto the shelf. Dwindling component sections (Anaheim did have a great selection there for a while). Hard to find decent help. Inconsistent application of the price match policy. Even though the San Marcos (CA) store was 20 minutes away, I only went in there three times since moving to the area in 2017. I am surprised they made it this far.

  17. I shopped at several Frys and liked the experience. But they really became irrelevant in the Amazon age. You could always find better deals online and didn’t have to drive a long way. It was frequently not a smooth experience. Often if you wanted a specific item, it wasn’t in stock. They were walking-dead long before Covid.

    1. I am nowhere near Van Nuys, but I do order from All Electronics. Interesting surplus/distress stuff.

      Electronics Goldmine is another one that I mail-order from often. They don’t appear to have a retail outlet, though. Their specials are great. They currently have 1,000 10 amp mini-blade fuses on special for just ten bucks. I bought 1,000 power MOSFETS for $35 a while back! They also had some sweet 12VDC 30A power supplies on special for $20 a while ago.

      Another favourite mail order place is BG Micro Electronics. Again, no discernible retail outlet. No super-specials, but if you get on their email list, they often have blanket specials of as low as 35% off for a few days.

      I’m in the boondocks, and so am pretty limited to mail order.

      1. Yah, I like ordering from there too… actually need a sealed lead acid I should check them out for… I didn’t realise they had a physical store until a few months ago when mentioned on here derp. Found them online over a decade ago, possibly as long as two. I know one of my earlier purchases was a whole stack of batteries to keep my Nokia 5190s going so that has to be a while back.

    1. That was a sad day indeed when they closed. Visiting there was an experience like none other, and no matter how often you went you were guaranteed to find new (to you) things. Driving into the South Bay just isn’t the same as it used to be.

      If anything ever happens to Central Computers, the world might as well end.

  18. Not surprised Frys shuttered. Declining badly over last six years. Renamed it ‘Aint got it.’. Not only in store but online as well- stock not there. Great prices doesn’t hold up without product. Not including sales gimmicks.
    Declining sales staff. Not bearly a half assed hacker in the store nevermind a qualified Sales associate. Along with lower prices not being there and it’s almost a modern Radioshack.
    No I dont need a crAple cellphone. What I do need you aint got or on slim chance do have it’s outdated and/or overpriced. That’s with the full expectation of paying more for product on hand in store.
    Virus crap not a good excuse. I was missing the Frys that died already few years ago.
    Fail.

      1. Mouser as in the electronics parts house located in Texas? I’m clearly missing something in its comparison to a retail electronics outlet Frys. Frys mostly a consumer appliance and electronic store that carried some replacement components, kits, basic electronics supplies, and Personal Computer build and supplies. To me your trying to compare DigiKey to Radioshack An Entire semiconductor and electronics supply warehouse to less than a quarter of retail store respective.
        I do like Mouser and been with them since well nevermind. There was most definitely a time when Mouser aint got it neither and they carried leftovers (surplus) and pulls. They all growed up now.

        1. Frys and Mouser (along with Mouser’s counterpart Digi-Key, which started around the same time) are in very different businesses. But they do have some overlap; they are all places where hobbyists might obtain electronic components. Frys was great if you needed something Right Now; Mouser has better prices and selection, though you have to buy enough to overcome the cost of shipping. (Frys was also a source of things that Mouser and Digi-Key don’t sell, like appliances and complete computers.)

          When Mouser and Digi-Key started, they were a revolution in component distribution and purchasing. The old school distributors really didn’t like to sell to individuals. A couple of them like Lafayette (RIP) and Allied would begrudgingly accept mail orders and payment by check, and you could even buy from them with cash if you visited their headquarters. Most required customers to establish an account before they would sell you anything, which wrote off individuals. Otherwise, you were left with second-tier companies that mostly existed to sell parts to repair shops and a few retail stores like Radio Shack.

          Mouser and Digi-Key were explicitly friendly to individuals from the start and actively courted ur-makers such as radio amateurs. And then the world changed in ways that were favorable for their business models, and their way of doing things eventually won. The first big change was toll-free telephone lines, making it easier and cheaper for people to place orders.

          The birth of ubiquitous consumer credit cards (and small business cards shortly after) happened around the same time, making it easier to pay for orders and eliminating the delays and overhead of establishing an account. That was key to the startups of the early days of personal computing; they lacked the history and assets to open a distributor account, but the founders could use their personal cards to order components. Corporate cards are now the norm; nobody bothers to open a net-30 distributor account unless they are ordering parts for volume production. As the 70s progressed into the 80s, the new-school companies thrived because the people who started out in those 70s startups continued to order from their familiar sources rather than switching over to the old school distributors.

          Finally, the internet came along, and it was a natural fit for the business model of Mouser and Digi-Key. Both were on the world wide web early, introducing a new way to order parts that is much easier and less error-prone than phone orders, provides real-time inventory information, and eventually eliminated the need for massive paper catalogs.

          That has left the older distributors playing a game of catch-up ever since. Companies like Arrow, Avnet, and Newark have all had to move online, court makers and startups, and in general try to approach the kind of customer-friendly model that Mouser and Digi-Key have had for years.

  19. Bummer. I gave them a LOT of business, back when I had to drive right past them on the way to/from work as an engineer at Tektronix. :-)

    They had a quirky and unusual inventory at times, and they were the best place to get electronic components in-person. I still use an exchangeable-bit precision screwdriver that I got from them some 20 years ago — high-quality German-made, not the crappy “eyeglass” tiny screwdrivers you get in the dollar store that break the first time you use them.

    I got a microwave, refrigerator, and a unique LCD bathroom scale that was powered by a tiny generator that you tapped with your foot — still using it to this day, although the plastic case broke, and it’s bare metal now.

    I’m also still using an ST-506 external disk drive case I got from them, although the disk itself (was probably a WHOPPING 1 GB when I bought it!) has been swapped out several times.

    I also bought an Olympus E-10 fixed-lens digicam from them on a close-out deal. Gave that to a WWOOFer who came through here who lost her camera.

    Although I haven’t shopped there in a dozen years since moving to Canada, I’ll miss simply knowing they were there, should I find myself going through Portland.

  20. The Fry’s around here was starting to show signs this would happen for quite a while. It was near Gwinnett Place Mall, and to their credit they seem to have outlasted the mall at least. Items might be hung on the wrong shelves, and paying the sales droids on commission meant they weren’t very helpful finding electronics since they wouldn’t be making anything on the sale.

    1. @Chris. said: “NiteFire electronic kits, Florida.”

      Yes…

      NightFire Electronics, LLC
      636 NW 27th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34475
      Tel: 352-300-3548
      https://www.vakits.com

      Here’s a couple more walk-in plus online electronics fun spots in the beautiful State of Florida, one of the last States in America that’s still American:

      Marlin P. Jones & Associates [MPJA]
      8380 Resource Drive
      West Palm Beach, FL 33404
      800-652-6733
      https://www.mpja.com

      Skycraft Parts & Surplus
      2245 W. Fairbanks Ave
      Winter Park, FL 32789
      407-628-5634
      https://skycraftsurplus.com

  21. Going, going, gone. I’ll miss you Fry’s. On my first visit to their original Sunnyvale store in the 80’s I felt like I’d landed in Nirvana. Who else sold electronics along side health and beauty aids? A fine night out in those days was Fry’s, Halted, Computer Literacy, Weird Stuff, followed by wings and drinks at St. James Infirmary.

  22. I will miss Fry’s. The computer I am using to type this was built from Fry’s parts. My first Android tablet was purchased at Fry’s as was a lot of my electronics. It was fun to to see all the “stuff” they carried. Those were the days!

  23. Fry’s has been… dodgy? for awhile. Doing PC support in the 90s was bizarre; I’d buy a hub for a job. If it didn’t work, I’d take it back and *they would re-wrap it with a blue and white sticker saying it had been opened and the warranty was still good*!!!
    I ended up buying the same hub or modem (that’s how long ago) several times until I kept better track of serial numbers. They did this with many, many items. If you rooted around and avoided the stickers, their bargains were incredible. And the place had an excellent cafe.

  24. We took over the local “Active Tech” Store in Calgary, Alberta. The new owner of the Active-Tech chain has split up the stores to be localized under an umbrella arrangement\. We’re working to push a lot of our web inventory to the brick-and-mortar (ha, almost spelled “motor”) store, and we’re attempting to bring back that old “Radio-Shack” vibe with modern equipment.

    It’s a nice complement when you’re trying to check people out and they say “Um… yeah, I just wanna browse a bit longer; it’s a cool store…”. And we sincerely thank all our customers for shopping local.

    1. Hmmm they the same Active that were associated with Futureshop near the start of the century, when Futureshop still had a large range of PC components, a handful of in stock electrical/electronic and the “Future-Active” component catalog you could order from and pick up in store. I was juuuust getting enthusiastic about that and then poof, local-est branch closed, couple of years passed, futureshop decided to become a 100% clone of Bestbuy, opened a new more local store, no sign of the future-active thing, festered as a “we’re the second best buy after bestbuy” outfit, technically I guess Bestbuys actual second string, and died again 5 or 6 years ago.

  25. Murphy’s Surplus in San Diego / El Cajon is amazing! It has everything for a project except the ICs. The electronics surplus store down the street closed years ago, but this place keeps chugging along. Wire, headers, connectors, hardware, enclosures, speakers, motors, tools, test equipment, radios, tubes, and tons of military surplus.
    https://www.murphyjunk.net

  26. My local Frys in Concord had been a ghost town for more than a year so this isn’t a surprise. As good as sparkfun and adafruit are it was nice to have someplace where I could run over to buy a switch or a resistor on a Saturday.

  27. The Reuseum in Garden City, Idaho https://www.reuseum.com/ all kinds of surplus etc. They were doing some classes on electronics before covid.

    There was a big components store in Boise in the 90’s that I went to a few times, but when I went looking for 62 pin card edge connectors for a IBM/PC project they didn’t have any, claimed it was because “they aren’t standard”. Umwhat? The IBM/PC bus connector used in millions of computers isn’t standard? It’s right there in the name, Industry Standard Architecture.

  28. I think the closest thing we have to a store like this here in Australia is Jaycar. They still have a good range of electronic bits and bobs (including Arduino and the other microcontroller stuff) and various gadgets.

    1. SkyCraft is about five miles from my house so I am there all the time. Not as much as I used to but I know I have spent gobs of money there. You have to be careful when you go there because you might just go in with one project you are working on and walk out with three more.

  29. Reading through these comments I’m left feeling like we’re really bad at adapting to change. Why should local be held in high regard when mail order via internet is cheaper and usually just as corporate and impersonal? Why do chinese people who build our things for a cheap price matter less to us than some corporate asshole who charges more for the pleasure of having to drive hours away? We’re choosing winners and losers and feeling like our local millionaires are better than some other country’s millionaires. None of them pay taxes and receive government welfare. I liked Fry’s, but I like online shops too. When will we mourn the loss of internet shops? Sooner than we think, I’m sure.

    1. I think that local vs. mail-order debate really depends on what level of future life you are counting on.
      Buying your food in a large corporate store or online in a community that historically has survived on local purchases of locally grown food, you are simply contributing to your own community’s demise.
      If you buy car parts online or at the big box store instead of from the locally owned long-standing parts company, you are contributing to the demise of that local company and likely many of the families associated with it (i.e. the people who work there).
      If you want to support your community, you will probably pay a little more. However, at the locally owned parts store, or local farmer’s market, you won’t just get better quality help (and food), you’ll actually make friends that matter, too – Unlike online “friends” who can be deleted in an instant, and who would delete you in an instant, you will make connections to people close to you, which have a chance of tuning into lifelong, mutually-beneficial friendships.

      So what we are really seeing here is a trend of people being convinced not to care about the people they should care about (their local “neighbors”) and care only about themselves and how cheap they can get something. I mean, come on – Look at china – The horrible, unspeakable things that they do to their people en masse – How could you ever be ok with funding this? Literally the same thing (and worse) as funding what the germans were doing in WWII.

      Another note is that some things, like electrical parts, really aren’t feasible to all sell locally. There are far too many parts (i.e. part numbers). No single store could stock them, and a store that stocked even a fraction of them would be absolutely massive and having such a store even in every state would be a logistics and employment-cost nightmare.

      As far as millionaires, I am not sure what you are talking about there. I have known few store owners who were millionaires, unless you considered the value of their building to be “cash” which isn’t the case. I have known hundreds of small business (store) owners and I would say that they were poorer and worked far harder than most people I’ve ever known in a corporate job. They did it with the hope that someday, when their building was paid off, their store would also still be afloat and they would have something to show at the end. So, as far as these millionaires, I think you have two choices, the evil USA corporate millionaires who will tell you how to think and collect all of your private information and sell it whether you like it or not, or the communists, who do unspeakable things to people who don’t think the way they are told to.

  30. What a shame. It was obvious that the store in Fishers, IN was on it’s last legs for some time. I asked a couple of employees (pre-COVID, I believe) why the shelves were suddenly so barren and they repeatedly assured me that they were “renegotiating supplier contracts.” It seemed obvious that was not the case.

    Unfortunately the small local store I used to visit in Indianapolis went out of business some time ago as well. If anyone in Indy has a lead on another I would love to hear about it.

    1. Yeah, I went to the Fishers store late 2019, and it was a weird leaky ghost-town. Little stock, no staff, shopping carts willed with trash bags to catch roof leaks and a mysteriously huge pile of mattresses in the middle of the sales floor. Oh, and all the 30-pin iPod docks anyone could have wanted — in 2010

  31. People are quick to blame cheap stuff on the internet for killing the retail stores but where would they be without it?

    Our hobby was in decline through the 80s and 90s. By the early naughts I would say it was pretty near circling the drain. It was the Internet that turned things around. You might say we could have collaborated online as we do now but bought our supplies local but that only really works for people who lived near something good like a Fry’s or a Dick Smith. That would be a lot fewer people collaborating. Would open source hardware be a thing like it is now? Could those maker oases survived by themselves?

    I don’t think things would have turned around. The hobby could have died completely and these stores might have gone out of business a lot sooner. If you wanted to make things you would have to get an engineering degree and then a related job for a large coorporation. Failing that you get to satisfy your making urge by inserting the same rivet over and over on a factory line day after day after day…

    We just might be living in something a lot closer to the best of all possible worlds than many of us would like to believe.

  32. I rarely went to the Fry’s in Houston. When I was there a few years ago, they were still using green CRT monitors for checkout and customer service. They definitely lost their way.

    There’s two great places in Houston. Electronics Parts Outlet (EPO) is in the south and ACE Electronics on the northside. Both of these places started as surplus sellers way back when and continue to sell surplus, but have kept up with newer merchandise for both hobbyists and professionals. If anyone knows of others, I’d love to know, but my workshop has more and better selection of parts than Fry’s ever did.

    1. Ain’t you never seen no sci-fi set 100s of years in the future? The computers all use green screens and go bidibipbeep as they print to screen at 50 bits per second or slower. They were staying ahead of the game LOL

  33. While in Santa Clara, CA I recommend Anchor Electronics for a good selection of thru-hole and surface mount components, as well as PC supplies, wire, connectors. Check out their web site at https://anchor-electronics.com/ . The web site has a useful price list for concise shopping.
    The second place for will-call or mail order is Alltronics, very near Anchor in Santa Clara. Web site is https://anatekinstruments.com/ . I used to frequent HSC in Sunnyvale, but the owner retired/sold the business to Excess Solutions on 7th St in San Jose. Haven’t visited there (yet).

  34. As someone who shopped at Fry’s since the beginning (when they sold hard drives & video cards in the corner of their Santa Clara grocery store), I’ll say that it is sad to see the end of an era.

    There was a time when having your product on the shelf at Fry’s meant that you had arrived. I was with a startup (Frecom, fax & fax/modems) that won about 10 feet of shelf space in about 1990. We’d go to Fry’s just to stare at it… it felt like SUCH an an incredible achievement.

    I’m not so sad for Fry’s itself – the world evolved and they died out, just as Fry’s killed off a lot of smaller local businesses. And, in fact, I think they lost their way when they started selling kitchen appliances. What’s saddest to me is that this was just about the last vestige of Silicon Valley’s hardware heritage. Haltek closed in 2000 (https://www.mv-voice.com/morgue/2000/2000_05_05.haltek05.html) and Weird Stuff in 2018 (https://thesixfifty.com/these-photos-of-weirdstuff-warehouse-will-make-you-sad-the-quirky-shop-is-gone-for-good-4eecb8308851), and without them, and now Fry’s, it’s just not the same.

  35. What a shame. I’ve shopped at the Fry’s in Fountain Valley, CA since it opened 30 years ago. I built my first computers from their components, upgraded memory on my first video cards, even bought model rockets resulting in a visit from the police department on one occasion. lol. I still have JK Electronics in Westminster, MarVac in Costa Mesa, and MicroCenter in Tustin.

    What angers me is they’d likely still be around if it weren’t for misguided lockdowns, thanks to Governor Hair Gel here in California. My business is now bankrupt. Just like thousands of others in this state. As of November 2020, 31.1% of all small businesses have been put out of business permanently. I’d wager the number is now over 40%.
    States that didn’t shut down have lower death rates so it’s quite clear the extended lockdowns had little to do with public health. I’ll stop there, but i’m sure you all know where i’m going with this. And now we got a guy running the show who doesn’t know where he is when he wakes up each morning. lovely.

  36. I live in San Jose California and would shop at the San Jose (Mayan temple) Campbell (ancient Egypt) and Fremont (1893 World’s Fair) Palo Alto (Wild West) themed stores. The Fremont location had a huge room sized faraday cage with a tesla coil that would be engaded on a schedule every day. It would scare some of the custumers with its odd cracking and rummbling cage sounds. Eventually it began to fail and was no longer engaged, bummer.

    The san Jose location was the largest of the four locations that i would shop at. I was a teenager and still in High School back in the late 90s when i first heard about these magical stores. Fry’s stores were a huge step ahead of Radio Shack, The Good Guys, CompUSA, Circuit City and even Best Buy. I built many PC computers with Fry’s purchased components for my family and friends at incredibbly low prices compared to prebuilt PCs.

    The stores began selling (As Seen On TV) products, educational toys, solar powered projects, arduino and raspberry Pi projects as a way to atract more customers. Yet, their days were already numbeted. I personally began shopping more online and by 2019 i stopped going to Fry’s completely. By that time the inventory and selection at Fry’s began dwindling. Online stores like NewEgg and Amazon became the new norm for me.

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