The rise and fall of RadioShack

It was my go-to place for 50 years …. Layne AE1N

The first RadioShack store came into existence in Boston in 1921. It was established by Theodore and Milton Deutschmann as a retail outlet for amateur or ham radio enthusiasts. Amateur radio was really taking off in the early ’20s, and the Deutschmanns were able to tap into this fervor with one retail outlet and eventually a thriving mail-order business. Radio Shack sent out its first catalog in 1939 as it began diversifying into high-fidelity music.

By 1954, Radio Shack started selling its own branded stereo equipment under the name Realist. The company was forced to change the brand name to Realistic after being sued by a company called Stereo Realist, which made stereo cameras – cameras that would allow users to essentially take their own View-Master pictures. In the early 1960s, Radio Shack fell on hard times and careened toward bankruptcy. It was at that point that Charles D. Tandy entered the picture.

From the age of 12, Charles Tandy had worked in his father’s leather business. While serving in the US Navy during World War II, he noticed sailors doing needlepoint and knitting as recuperative therapy. Tandy thought the men might prefer working with leather as their medium and established a system of craftwork involving leather for the sailors’ recuperation.

After the war, Tandy took this concept, named it Tandycraft and turned it into what would become a major part of his father’s business. In 1963, Tandy acquired the ailing Radio Shack for $300,000, seeing the potential in the company. At the time, Radio Shack consisted of the mail-order business and nine retail stores around Boston.

Tandy shut down the mail-order business, ended credit purchases, slimmed down top management and streamlined the product line from 40,000 items to 2,500. He used data from mail-order purchases to select markets in which to expand. Managers of the stores were required to take an ownership stake in their location as incentive to remain profitable. Radio Shack grew quickly with Tandy’s hand at the wheel.

Read the rest of this fascinating article by Eric Renshaw in the Argus Leader

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One thought on “The rise and fall of RadioShack”

  1. Interesting! My dad and I used to go to (one of) the original Radio Shack(s) on CommAv in Boston as part of occasional trips to The Hub from our home in Maine. I remember being somewhat disgusted when it was taken over by a leather company.

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