Fry’s Electronic’s, the big-box chain that was a longtime, one-stop shop for tech enthusiasts, is shutting down after 36 years in business. The company cited “changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Fry’s made the announcement in a statement on its website early Wednesday, where all other content had disappeared. But the writing had been on the wall for at least two years as empty store shelves began to signal that the San Jose, Calif.,-based company was in trouble.
Fry’s operated 31 stores across nine states, including one in Renton, south of Seattle — the only Washington location. GeekWire visited that store in October 2019 as internet reports began to circulate that the chain may be struggling in the age of Amazon and increased online shopping.
The 152,000-square-foot Renton store was a sea of empty shelves at the time, with very few employees — or customers — wandering departments ranging from personal computers to televisions to office furniture. But a spokesman for Fry’s told GeekWire back then that Fry’s was “gearing up for the holiday season” and that it was planning to restock over the next several weeks with no plans to liquidate or close any stores.
Holding an extension cable to power a CPU in a computer he was fixing, customer Jordan Jones told GeekWire in 2019 that Fry’s was “the last bastion of hardware shopping.”
He said then that empty shelves were a scary sign for brick-and-mortar retail in general. “They used to have all these computer boxes stacked,” he said, waving his arm from floor to ceiling at scattered boxes on shelves nearby.
Founded in 1985 in Sunnyvale, Calif., Fry’s had been an electronics institution for decades, once boasting on its website that it catered to the high-tech professional and sold more than 50,000 electronic items in its stores.
As rumors of the shut-down began circulating on Twitter Tuesday night, some shoppers shared their appreciation for the chain’s adherence to a bizarre “theme” approach to each store’s decor. While the Renton store focused on regional history, others had elaborate displays tied to Egyptian history, Atlantis, the Wild West, the Gold Rush and more.
Here is the full statement on the closure from the Fry’s website:
After nearly 36 years in business as the one-stop-shop and online resource for high-tech professionals across nine states and 31 stores, Fry’s Electronics, Inc. (“Fry’s” or “Company”), has made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently as a result of changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Company will implement the shut down through an orderly wind down process that it believes will be in the best interests of the Company, its creditors, and other stakeholders.
The Company ceased regular operations and began the wind-down process on February 24, 2021. It is hoped that undertaking the wind-down through this orderly process will reduce costs, avoid additional liabilities, minimize the impact on our customers, vendors, landlords and associates, and maximize the value of the Company’s assets for its creditors and other stakeholders.
The Company is in the process of reaching out to its customers with repairs and consignment vendors to help them understand what this will mean for them and the proposed next steps.
If you have questions, please contact us using the following email addresses:
- For customers who have equipment currently being repaired, please email [email protected], to arrange for return of your equipment.
- For customers with items needing repair under a Performance Service Contract, please call (800) 811-1745.
- For consignment vendors needing to pick up their consignment inventory at Fry’s locations, please email [email protected].
Please understand if we are a bit slow to respond given the large volume of questions. The Company appreciates your patience and support through this process.
Writer and editor Kurt Schlosser covers the Geek Life beat for GeekWire. A longtime journalist, photographer and designer, he has worked previously for NBC News, msnbc.com and the Seattle P-I. Follow Kurt on Twitter or reach him at [email protected].