Fry’s Electronics, one of the few brick-and-mortar electronics chain stores within the United States — and one of the most renowned Silicon Valley institutions in particular — will soon be closing across the country; the company has officially announced Wednesday after Tuesday night news reports by SF Bay Area broadcaster KRON4 and Bill Reynolds and Matthew Keys.
“After more than 36 years of business as a one-stop shop and online source for professionals in high-tech across the United States and with the presence of 31 locations, Fry’s Electronics, Inc. (“Fry’s”) or “Company”) has made the difficult choice to close its doors and cease operations permanently due to shifts in the retail industry and the challenges presented by the covid-19 pandemic.” is the statement issued by Fry’s.
Nothing is likely to come as a shock if you’ve visited any Fry’s restaurant during the past two or three years.
Fry’s Electronics is shutting its doors permanently
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, family-owned business was being forced to the brink of destruction by online stores like Amazon, Newegg and more. The company began an effort to match the price of everything you can find on the internet. The campaign included a kids’ toy aisle, massive shelves of As Seen on TV gadgets, and even perfume. But the situation got even worse. In the year 2019, what used to be a treasure trove of computers, gadgets, components and audio equipment, video games, and appliances was now ghost warehouses that were stuffed with empty store shelves.
It was discovered that the business was forced to shift to a consignment system which was only able to draw suppliers who were willing to pay for their products when Fry’s succeeded in selling the items. A lot of suppliers weren’t. An ex-employee tells the Verge that Samsung shut down its business because of unpaid bills and that Fry’s removed most full-time jobs prior to the outbreak to reduce costs. A long-time manager of the store informs me that employees were paid for their time (including holiday pay) up to February 24.
YouTuber celebrity Bitwit famously led a video investigation into the depths the once great stores had fallen to and the way the company rerouted extra inventory for their Las Vegas store just in the event that journalists visited at CES 2020.
In the next few months, the company started closing its stores. Not just any store, however, but the most important ones located situated in Silicon Valley, like its store with a cowboy theme located in Palo Alto, mere steps away from where my father worked at the Danger Hiptop (known better as the T-Mobile Sidekick) and other large tech companies still operate. The Palo Alto store closed in December of 2019. I often rode my bicycle towards the Egyptian-themed pyramid-shaped shop in Campbell, which abruptly shut down in November.
Egyptians? Cowboys? Yes, entering Fry’s Electronics was an experience that started with an “E” — back when I first moved into my new home in the Bay Area in 1990, one of the first stores was designed as the interior of a (now-vintage) computer. You’d stroll through to the mainframe’s aisles, smacking into huge human-sized capacitors and resistors along the way. The Egyptian store featured false columns and mummies, and sarcophagi. Laptops were set out on huge slabs of stone, surrounded by black panthers’ statues. Is the Palo Alto store closed? False horses, hot air balloons and fake horseshoes are suspended on the roof.
Here are some of the other places:
“Going to the Fry’s shop is a fun experience in and of itself, but for someone who is a geek, it can be therapeutic,” wrote former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassee in a blog article. I totally agree. I’d often buy food items, like a bag of astronaut ice cream at a discount, and one of the choices available from the huge candy shelves attached to the check-out line. There were even inexpensive food items like hot dogs or soda (think 50 cents to $1 for both) in the parking lot during summers while I was growing older. They also had Black Friday doorbusters, a Silicon Valley event, ,and there were lines all in the streets for laptops priced at $200 and routers that cost $60.
It’s possible to play around with many prototype devices, also. I first tried a VR headset at Fry’s in the years before Oculus was released. It was the first time I also tasted Final Fantasy VIIon an experimental PlayStation.
“Tech retailer Fry’s Electronics announces it will shut down immediately. blames the impact of industry changes and pandemic as the reason for the shut-down (Sean Hollister/The Verge)”