Mourning the Death of Radio Shack

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I will always be a Fort Worth girl, no matter where I roam. I’m also unapologetically a huge geek – and always have been. The intersection of those two data points make me one of the saddest to hear about the death of Radio Shack.  The hometown company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday after eleven consecutive quarters of losses.

I had high hopes when the brand relaunched its new 21st century stores (announced by an award winning Super Bowl ad in 2014, I although I got to see the new design early when the corporate flagship store opened across the street from my office in November 2013).

But alas, the reboot didn’t take. It seems that today’s consumers don’t want to drive to Radio Shack to buy their GoPro cameras or tech accessories. And even the firm’s repair services for cracked iPhone screens and other mishaps or their ability to sell cellular service plans for major providers was not enough to drive traffic.

While the company wasn’t started in Fort Worth, it was a fixture there after Charles Tandy (of the Tandy leather products origins) bought the company in the 1960s.  Most of those raised in Cowtown felt the influence of the company in a variety of ways.

Some of the relics of Radio Shack are already long gone but embedded in my memory…

* Riding the old Leonard’s Department Store “subway” downtown to the old Tandy Center to go ice skating go study at the public library after school.

* Seeing the twin Tandy towers lit up with multistory “candles” on the downtown skyline at the holidays.

* Playing computer games on a Radio Shack “kit computer” attached to a black & white television in the early 80s.

* Learning to program in several languages on a TRS-80 in my school’s computer lab.

* Being a Tandy Scholar and attending the annual awards dinner.  And later being celebrated by the company as one of our hometown’s National Merit Scholars.

I’m sad to see an important piece of Cowtown’s business history die – the one that carried us beyond cattle and oil and defense and made us a player in the early days of the Silicon Prairie.

RIP Radio Shack.  You’ll always have a place in this Fort Worth geek girl’s heart.

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last nineteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Once an "every week" road warrior, she now only travels around 100 days a year. She resides in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and playing with her Border Collie/Great Pyreness mix puppy Harley Quinn.

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  1. I see Radio Shack is near and dear to you so I won’t go off on how they shouldve been bankrupt years ago. But I have to say doesn’t the commercial predict their inevitable demise? All throwback, no future plan.

    • Oh, I totally concur from a business standpoint… they’ve been circling the drain since the early 90s. They never could figure out how to evolve.

  2. This goes back almost 50 years, but I remember their BATTERY OF THE MONTH CLUB at Radio Shack. You had a card they punched each month when you picked up your free battery (AA, D, 9V, etc.). No purchase necessary. That was a big deal at 10 years old or whatever.

    The “Trash 80” was the first PC I ever used,

  3. It’s a Chapter 11 reorganization, not a Chapter 7 liquidation. So it’s really not a death per se…. perhaps a rebirth of sorts? They have a deal to sell some (up to 2,400) Radio Shack stores to Sprint.

    Yeah, I remember using a TRS-80 (“Trash 80”) when it came out in the late 1970s; complete with monitor and cassette tape drive.

  4. I also had a TRS 80 model iii as a kid. Learned Basic on it. I also has multiple “battery of the month”: cards as a kid. I also remember getting the free item of the month like flashlights, etc.

    RadioShack failed because they got away from the core customers. I don’t need a new cell phone plan. I can get that at any kiosk at the mall. I don’t need cell phone accessories as I can get that from anyplace cheaper. What do I need? How about a new power adapter for my Macbook. A set of batteries for my weird electronics or a KU band satellite dish. How about a new motor for my drone that I’m building. They missed the boat on computers. They copied the cellphone stores. All that at higher prices. Police Scanners don’t really have much future. Sell geeks what they need. Not a cell phone plan.

    • Agree. I wonder if they would have done better as a primarily catalog/internet business catering to a specific audience with fewer brick & mortar stores?

  5. Jennifer – Have many memories myself. Worked in a number of the RadioShack retail stores in Fort Worth during my high school years and after graduating college moved into Tandy Design and Construction – designing RadioShack, Computer City, Incredible Universe, and The Edge stores throughout the US and Middle East. During my time at the Camp Bowie store (when it was in the Tom Thumb shopping center) a book came out titled “Tandy’s Money Machine” where looking thru the photos realized my grandfather designed the corporate headquarters when they first moved to Fort Worth – on 7th Street where Backwoods currently resides. Oddly enough, the first store I was assigned to was the 7th Street location across from Montgomery Wards. Was definitely some good times.

    • I remember you working there in high school – and I remember those Camp Bowie & 7th Street locations but I had NO idea your grandfather designed the original corporate headquarters… how cool! As another old Fort Worth kid, I still have trouble adjusting to the retrofit of Montgomery Plaza from the old Montgomery Wards warehouse as I remember going there to shop for something with my mother. (Ditto the old Neiman Marcus which was then a furniture store and is now an alternative school!)

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