Radio Shack on University Ave. near 805 overpass. "When Incredible Universe closed in 1997, I thought RadioShack was dead already; but they held on for another 20 years.”
  • Radio Shack on University Ave. near 805 overpass. "When Incredible Universe closed in 1997, I thought RadioShack was dead already; but they held on for another 20 years.”
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“Some of their sales reps and their corporate buyers had a lack of knowledge,” said Bob Mulz, regarding the soon to be closings of the RadioShack stores in his Cherokee Point/City Heights neighborhood.

Bob Mulz: “They took the wrong turn with the telephone stuff.”

Mulz, 72, is the owner of Ave Electronics at 3829 University Ave. His electronic-parts store is less than a mile east from RadioShack (3312 University Avenue), which is having a 90%-off blowout sale. There are two more RadioShacks on University Avenue; one in Hillcrest (which will close on May 31 – according to the sales rep), and another one across the Interstate 15 overpass, which is already closed (phones are no longer being answered).

“They took the wrong turn with the telephone stuff,” Mulz said regarding their collaborative effort with Sprint.

“I believe that they are closing due to the competition – Fry’s, eBay, Amazon – where they [and some of their sellers] have a much stronger buying power,” said Lyle Rehberg, 45, “it’s a shame to see such a big player in the electronics ring get tossed out over the top rope.”

Rehberg has been installing “monster” audio-visual systems in autos and homes for the last twenty years. He has occasionally used the Realistic and Optimus (RadioShack brands) equipment when he was in a pinch and had to drive to the closest store. “The store isn’t very convenient for installation professionals, everything is overpriced there,” he said, “[and] when Incredible Universe closed in 1997, [which was] Tandy Corporation, also owners of RadioShack, I thought RadioShack was dead already; but they held on for another 20 years.”

Mulz has been supplying people like Rehberg for the last 34 years. His shop still sells capacitors, resistors, wires, installation kits … “and a lot of belts and cartridges (for turntables).”

“With our ‘throwaway society’ – many are reverting back to the tube amplifiers, cassette decks, and turntables,” Mulz said, as he pointed to his stash of record player cartridges with needles and “8000 bands / belts” for the mechanisms that drive the VCRs, boomboxes, 8-track players, walkmans and cassette players. “They (RadioShack) couldn’t keep up with the game,” he said, “right now, they (audio enthusiasts) like this older equipment because the sounds [that come out of the speakers] have more depth.”

Mulz was referring to older analog equipment that plays back music (through records, reels and cassettes) and amplifies the music (through tube-amps), unlike the “chintzy sound” that comes from iPods or smartphones where the music has been digitized and compressed, and then “Bluetoothed” to a satellite speaker. Mulz said that he sells new stuff as RadioShack does, like HDMI wires and iPhone connectors, but the profit margin is small because the manufacturers and distributors in China, sell directly to the public online, for pennies above his wholesale price.

Ray, too, goes to Mulz’s store for parts and knowledge. He collects the RadioShack / Realistic brands and is saddened by the bankruptcy of the company, as reported by the Reader in 2015. He has been loyal with the brand since his high-school days in the 1990s. “Realistic wasn’t the best top-shelf stuff,” he said, “but for the price, it did its job.” Now he buys up the vintage equipment that he couldn’t afford back then; including the shaft auto-stereos with the dual knobs, the equalizers with the dancing LED lights, the triaxial 6X9 speakers, and the giant “ghetto blasters that used 16 D batteries.” He sells much of his stuff on eBay and said that certain vintage RadioShack pieces recently sold for $400 apiece; including a TRS-80 computer, a MK-1 Moog synthesizer, and a Robie Sr. robot.

In the 1980s, Mulz got a patent for his Lil’ Bitty Tester that he created with his 27-year electronics-experience in the U.S. Navy. He said that his distributors sold some of his tester units to Tandy Corporation/RadioShack.

As of May 11, Radio Shack by the 805 freeway overpass is dry of merchandise. They still have RCA cables for $1.17 and four-packs of AAA alkaline batteries for $1.80. The store is also selling their five-feet display fixtures for $150 apiece. A store employee said “I have nothing for you” when approached for an interview, he did although provide a “media hotline” number in Texas (the RadioShack headquarters) which was disconnected.

Two employees from the other close-by stores said to customers that the remaining (San Diego) RadioShack stores will close their doors on May 31.

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Comments

Ponzi May 12, 2017 @ 8:22 p.m.

ctronics kits and learned some electronics from that experience. I later put a Realistic 23-Channel CB Radio Base Station on lay-away. It was $159.00 and I would take $10 a week to the store.

I recall the employees of that store (and husband and wife team) later opened the subject franchise on University & 805. My experience with my CB base station was to add channel "24" and then learn how to had more illegal channels with various crystals. I later opened Future Electronics on University Avenue & Aragon. I was going to grow the business and put Radio Shack out of business. I was 18 years old, I lasted 6 months. Went back to fixing CB's in my garage for $25 and hour (amazing for a kid in 1977).

I had learned computer programming in high school on an HP-2000F. When the TRS-80 came out, I was on the waiting list to buy one. After that I became an Apple Computer Dealer and went into the mail order computer business.

Radio Shack was my childhood. It introduced me to electronics and it allowed me to program in BASIC at my home. I still do some electronics and have an amateur radio license, but Radio Shack became too expensive many years ago. I started buying from Mouser Electronics (started by a school teacher and originally operating out of Lakeside, California) it is now owned by Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffett).

I buy on the internet, I have not stepped into a Radio Shack store in years. I don't need a phone or radio controlled whatever. It's sad. It was a long run and a lot of fun in the good old days.

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MURPHYJUNK May 13, 2017 @ 9:13 a.m.

thanks for the info, Jerry Mouser was my shop teacher at granite hills hs in the 60's inspired me to take it a bit further, got a first class radio operators lic while in hs. seems like ages ago after reading your postingh.

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MURPHYJUNK May 13, 2017 @ 9:38 a.m.

do you recall alltronix and telrad also, they had some good stuff

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Ponzi May 13, 2017 @ 7:33 p.m.

What an interesting connection to Mouser. The story I heard was that Mouser was frustrated with the cost and turn-around for getting electronic parts and he started to sell small selection of electronics and it just kept growing. I used to get "will call" parts out in Lakeside in 1975 from Mouser. The Mouser family is set for generations.

I only remember Pro-Am Electronics which competed in some segments with Radio Shack. Radio Shack missed another opportunity in car audio installation. Locally, there were independents like Erik The Reds, Mad Jacks and Dow Sound. even today, Best Buy makes money installing car audio. Also, Radio Shack did not install CB radios and antennas, so many independent stores picked up that business.

In 1978 worked for an independent electronics store called Electronics Emporium in Kearny Mesa. It was run by a ham radio operator named Karl Brownstein. He later went to prison for operating a Ponzi scheme.

There are still some independents around like Willy's Electronics, Western Radio and

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MURPHYJUNK May 14, 2017 @ 7:33 a.m.

Mr. Mouser used to get free scrap cards form general dynamics, had part of our class time used to remove transistors and other reusable parts. he sold them in magazine ads like radio and electronics world. ( thats how he got his start in the parts business) :)

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Ponzi May 14, 2017 @ 8:05 a.m.

Wow thanks for sharing that about Mouser. You saw his business go from the kitchen table to the big time.

In the 70's I used to drive around the buildings in Kearny Mesa at night digging through the dumpsters for electronics parts.

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MURPHYJUNK May 14, 2017 @ 8:51 a.m.

our paths must have crossed several times. stop by sometime

.net

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n7mot May 16, 2017 @ 12:25 p.m.

Wow. What a trip down memory lane. I grew up in Radio Shack helping out when they'd let me back in the late 60's/early 70's. I too used to pick up will-call at Mouser and shopped at Electronics Emporium in the late 70's/early 80's. And don't forget the Heath Kit store. Good times.

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Ken Harrison May 13, 2017 @ 12:38 p.m.

Looks like the independent franchisees that were trying to keep the brand alive . . .aren't able to do so. And to think in the 70s and 80s Radio Shack were the kings of mass marketing thru mass mailings, capturing every customer's address. I think the name was one of the biggest factors, nobody needed radios any more, and "Shack" wouldn't invoke quality. But the writer is correct in the focusing on phones, and their own computers, was a mistake.

Like Radio Shack and all the other once large retailers, I have to wonder what the conversations were like in the board rooms of say . . . Woolworths vs. Walmart? What were the actions that led to death vs. growth?

None

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Ponzi May 13, 2017 @ 3:26 p.m.

Once upon a time, Radio Shack franchises made money. They had healthy margins and not a lot of competition. "Radio Shack" is actually a term that HAM radio operators used because many of them had "ham shacks" in their back yards or garage where they could set up all the equipment.

Radio Shack was bought by a leather good company called Tandy Leather. There are still some Tandy Leather stores around today; including one in Chula Vista and Escondido. They are probably fairing better in leather goods than cell phone accessories.

When I went to Radio Shack, it was to buy parts. I used to troubleshoot and repair circuit boards to the component level. When electronics were migrating from analog to digital, board level repair really was difficult because of surface mount chips and sensitivity to static. Today "technicians" just replace the board and throw away the bad board. Ham radio operators used to build their own radios or buy kits at HeathKit.

People started building their own computers in the late 70's and that is where Radio Shack missed the boat. They could have jumped in and sold circuit boards and other digital good like Jade Computer, Advanced Computer Products and so on. Rather than continue to cater to hobbyists, they decided to sell assembled computers. That left a big market to other independent retailers and mail order selling S-100 cards, memory and peripherals.

Today, almost everything that Radio Shack sold can be found on a smartphone. Calculator, radio, TV, phone, recorder, alarm, camera, video recorder, weather, scanner, and of course a computer.

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dwbat May 13, 2017 @ 6:31 p.m.

Yes, the Radio Shack/Sprint partnership was a marriage set to fail. Phone stores are all over the place, and many people never go to those shops anyway; they buy their new phones online. Also, RS should have at least chosen a better carrier than Sprint to work with.

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AlexClarke May 14, 2017 @ 9:23 a.m.

A friend of mine switched to Spring for half the price. He told me he saves a lot of money but gets half the calls he used to. You get what you pay for.

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hwstar May 14, 2017 @ 8:51 a.m.

I've been in electronics since age 6, and a licensed ham since 16. I used to marvel at the stuff in the Radio Shack catalogues. What did Radio Shack in in my opinion was the quality of the offerings went down hill as the shareholders demanded higher profit margins. The expectations of their customers were managed down (This has happened in a lot of products, not just electronics parts) During the last 20 years, lot of the electronic components were of sub-par quality, and the prices for them were higher then they should have been given the quality.

With the advent of Mouser, Digi-key, and the Chinese suppliers on Ebay, Ali-express, and Bangood, I can get better quality parts at lower prices, but the penalty is the wait time. It's good to see someone like Ave Electronics and Murphy Surplus are still around because once in a while I need something in a pinch. This has become a tough business to be in, but if someone is savvy, they may be able to make it work.

None

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Ponzi May 14, 2017 @ 9:43 a.m.

Here's some old electronics places... Gateway Electronics, Industrial Liquidators, Hurley's Electronics, San Diego Electronics Supply, Mud Shack, Shanks & Wright, Wagon Master...

You're outlasting them all, Murphyjunk.

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MURPHYJUNK May 15, 2017 @ 7:20 a.m.

pity they are gone, most were good guys ( I won't mention the ones that were stinkers)

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swell May 15, 2017 @ 9:49 p.m.

Don't forget Lafayette, Allied and Olson Electronics and Heathkit from the old days and SparkFun and Grainger's today ... what did I miss?

Yes, I met the old couple who ran that Radio Shack store at University @ 805. It was already fading from the glory days, offering mostly toys and consumer items. But even today you can buy a capacitor or variable resistor at Radio Shack. (They tell me that some franchise stores will remain open.)

I built my first transmitter from spare (tube) radio parts, and my first computer from individual chips on a breadboard- 6800 processor w 128 bytes of RAM and a hex keyboard. I'd love to get into Arduino projects, etc, but just don't have time in my old age. (Too busy 'informing' the Reader public, etc.)

It's great to know that some of my favorite people here are geeks!

omphaloskepsis often

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MURPHYJUNK May 16, 2017 @ 7:28 a.m.

anyone recall Jones surplus on market street ( s.e. San Diego) on the quansit hut? he had some cool stuff from ivac and general dynamics ( generous dynamics as some of us called it) ?

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dwbat May 16, 2017 @ 10:56 a.m.

Actually, you mean Quonset hut. ;-)

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Ponzi May 16, 2017 @ 9:07 p.m.

The name comes from their site of first manufacture, Quonset Point, at the Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center in Davisville (a village located within the town of North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

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dwbat May 17, 2017 @ 6:48 a.m.

Thanks for the additional info. I didn't know there was a Quonset Point. Per Wikipedia: "Between 150,000 and 170,000 Quonset huts were manufactured during World War II." Some are still in use.

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MURPHYJUNK May 17, 2017 @ 8:43 a.m.

thanks for the correction and info, but the question was

anyone recall Jones surplus on market street ?

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Ponzi May 17, 2017 @ 7:44 p.m.

Did Jones also sell military surplus stuff? Like ammo boxes, old radios, some clothing and other Army & Navy surplus? Because I recall visiting a place like that in that neighborhood in the late 70's and early 80's. If there was a place with electronics, I probably visited it.

Back off topic, the other Quonset hut I used to visit in the Barrio Logan area was Chuy's Mexican Food.

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MURPHYJUNK May 18, 2017 @ 7:36 a.m.

As I recall, Jones had a little bit of everything, large hardware selection and some industrial electronics, I did not recall paying much attention to much else.

also, I used to ride my bike to acro sales on university, and alltronics on adams ave. ( seems lightyears ago) got a bc-611 handi-talkie there

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