When all of the Radio Shack stores took their interesting items off the pegboards, and crammed them in those drawers to be forgotten and never replenished, I could see where it was leading.
Fry's is a California phenomenon. And even there, not necessarily a stone's throw away. Whereas Radio Shack stores are everywhere. I fixed new and old electronic equipment, with Radio Shack parts, more than once. Just hop in the car and buy what you need in minutes. I replaced the woofers in my nice speaker systems with Radio Shack drivers. I built a stereo preamp from scratch, with Radio Shack parts. I even bought my first HDTV STB from Radio Shack (a very decent, for those days, Accurian receiver, actually made by Digital Stream).
It's a shame to see what came of Radio Shack. Any options are either very few and far between, with inconvenient hours, or online. Nothing wrong with online, but it's not like walking into the neighorhood store Saturday night, to buy those resistors you need NOW, while you're on the way to dinner and the movies!
I have two Radio Shack stores in my area. The one I like better is too far away for me to visit much. The other is a bit sparse on the components I need. I go only when I need just one or two small items that it doesn't make sense to pay shipping and handling for. But when I do go I often have to wait quite a bit for all the folks getting cellphones to be done getting them activated. There are only a few store clerks and the phone sale and activation takes quite a bit of time for each customer.
I think Radio Shack (which bought out Lafayette as I recall) lost its focus as a hobbyist store and never made it as a consumer store. The advent of the Arduino and the Maker Movement has revitalized its hobbyist element somewhat (in the stores that adopted it) but on the whole I think it is going to simply fade away.
RS's selection is too limited; heck, even Fry's is limited, but they do have stuff that's handy in a pinch, like a good selection of resistors, DSub connectors and adapters, and such.
But my normal retail shopping is Excess Solutions, and maybe All Electronics (more electronics, but fewer connectors & such); I haven't been to Halted in a long while -- and those three are about all that's left for Silicon Valley surplus. There used to be a lot before the Dot-bomb bubble destroyed most of them due to rising rents.
For industrial stuff like servo motors, eBay is the place.
One of the highlights of getting my driver's license "back in the day" was that I was able to drive to Lafayette HQ/main store, instead of being limited to their smaller store near my house (a short bus ride away). Going to Lafayette by car the first time, in those pre-GPS days, was an adventure in itself. On the way back I stopped at nearby Eico (a vendor of kits, like Heathkit but smaller) with an AM/FM tuner kit I built, didn't work. They were nice enough to send a technician out to look at it, turned out it was a defective front-panel rotary switch (they gave me a new one). That kind of customer service is long gone!
I used to buy surplus parts from a basement store called Verada 214 in Lowell, Mass. The cabinets for the Utah speakers I bought at You Do It came from there. I also bought a National Semi MM5316 digital clock chip and built a clock. It still works although the LEDs don't put out much light anymore. I still have the MM5316 data sheet.
Well, for what they charge for cable assemblies, RS must be getting a pretty big profit margin... when they're able to sell one. RS is a good place for cordless phone batteries, the occasional connector, the occasional LED, and the occasional switch. However, the part selection is so limited compared to (say) Digi-Key, that it's rarely worth bothering.
You-Do-It has been around for years and has adapted well. They're more heavily into selling things like computer cables and other IT infrastructure, bu they still carry lots of components, meters, ham radios, and the like. They even had one oscilloscopes when I was last there. It's a 30-MHz, two-channel analog model from Elenco.
As we unveil EE Times’ 2015 Silicon 60 list, journalist & Silicon 60 researcher Peter Clarke hosts a conversation on startups in the electronics industry. Panelists Dan Armbrust (investment firm Silicon Catalyst), Andrew Kau (venture capital firm Walden International), and Stan Boland (successful serial entrepreneur, former CEO of Neul, Icera) join in the live debate.