Fry’s Electronics will shut down all of its stores nationwide
Fry’s Electronics, one of the last big brick-and-mortar electronics store chains in the United States — and a Silicon Valley institution in particular — is permanently closing nationwide, local broadcaster KRON4 has confirmed, following a report from Bill Reynolds and another from Matthew Keys.
The company’s Facebook page is also gone and its Twitter feed has been set to private — it was public earlier this evening, though it hadn’t tweeted in quite some time.
If you’ve ever visited a Fry’s anytime in the past two to three years, none of this will come as a surprise.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the family-owned business had been pushed to the brink of extinction by online retailers like Amazon, Newegg and more. Initially, the company started a campaign to price-match any item you could find online. It added a children’s toy aisle, huge racks of As Seen on TV gadgets, even perfume. But things got worse. By 2019, what used to be a paradise of gadgets, computers, components, video games, audio equipment and appliances had turned into ghost warehouses filled with empty shelves.
It turned out the company had been forced to switch to a consignment model, only able to attract suppliers willing to get paid for their goods after Fry’s managed to sell them. Many suppliers weren’t. A former employee tells The Verge that Samsung stopped doing business due to unpaid bills, and that Fry’s had eliminated most full-time roles even before the pandemic hit, in order to save money.
YouTuber star Bitwit famously conducted a video investigation that showed the depths the once-great stores had sunk to — and how the company shipped extra inventory to its Las Vegas store just in case journalists stopped by during CES 2020.
Soon, the company began closing its stores — and not just any stores, but major ones in the heart of Silicon Valley, like its cowboy-themed store in Palo Alto mere steps away from where my dad used to work on the Danger Hiptop (known better as the T-Mobile Sidekick) and many big tech startups still do business. That Palo Alto store closed in December 2019. I used to ride my bike to the company’s Egyptian-themed, pyramid shaped store in Campbell, which abruptly closed last November.
Egyptians? Cowboys? Yes, setting foot into a Fry’s Electronics was an experience with a capital “E” — when I moved to the Bay Area in 1990, one of the very first stores was laid out like the insides of a (now-vintage) computer — you’d walk down the aisles of the motherboard, bumping into giant human-sized capacitors and resistors as you’d go. The Egyptian store had fake columns, mummies and sarcophagi; laptops were laid out on huge stone slabs held up by statues of black panthers. That Palo Alto store which closed? Fake horses and hot air balloons hanging from the ceiling.
“Going to a Fry’s store is entertainment in itself; for a geek, it could be recuperative,” wrote former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée in a 2019 blog post. I wholeheartedly agree — I’d even occasionally grab some food, either a packet of discount astronaut ice cream or one of the many, many selections from their tremendous candy shelves attached to the checkout line. They’d even do cheap hot dogs and soda in the parking lot, some summers when I was growing up. The company’s Black Friday doorbusters were a Silicon Valley event, too, with lines around the block for $200 laptops and $60 routers.
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