Retired physicist C.J. Ransom of Colleyville stepped out of his local RadioShack store Friday afternoon for perhaps the last time and reflected nostalgically about his relationship with the Fort Worth-based company.
Ransom has been shopping at RadioShack stores since the 1960s, and he feels a bit of emptiness knowing that, because of the company’s bankruptcy filing last week, hundreds of locations — including the one in North Richland Hills, closest to his home — soon likely will be shuttered to slash operating costs and shed inventory.
“I had a Tandy computer I bought in the late ’60s or early ’70s,” Ransom said, remembering one of his biggest purchases at a RadioShack. “And 12 to 15 years later, I saw that exact same model at the Smithsonian.”
North Texans, many of them loyal — if not frequent — customers for decades, swarmed to RadioShack stores the day after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A judge gave permission Friday for the company to begin closing stores, and it released a list of more than 1,700 slated for closure, including nearly 20 in Tarrant County.
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Stores pegged for closure include seven in Fort Worth, five in Arlington, two in Burleson and one each in Benbrook, Euless, Hurst, North Richland Hills and Mansfield. Closing dates have not been released.
Many of those stores offered goods at 50 to 80 percent off on Friday. Shelves at both the North Richland Hills and Hurst locations were already showing empty spots, as employees had no inventory to restock items once they sold out.
On Friday, Ransom emerged from the store with a shopping bag full of assorted batteries, which he stocked up on because they were being sold at nearly 80 percent below their typical retail price. “They didn’t change enough,” Ransom lamented of the company. “Everything I used to get in there I can get somewhere else.”
In North Richland Hills, a set of Skullcandy aviator headphones that typically sells for more than $150 was available for $75. A variety of iPad designer covers that normally would cost about $45 were marked down to $15.
An eight-pack of Enercell size D batteries, normally about $15, could be had for a little more than $4.
RadioShack plans to sell up to 2,400 of its 4,000 stores to hedge fund Standard General, with Sprint planning to set up operations along with RadioShack in as many as 1,750 stores. But other proposals are expected in an upcoming bankruptcy court auction, where the fate of the stores will be determined.
Several customers interviewed outside stores Friday afternoon felt a sense of inevitability that the RadioShack name could soon become a thing of the past.
Retired teachers Dinah and Robert Riddle of Haltom City stopped by the North Richland Hills store to buy a new tabletop radio — to replace a similar device they bought at another RadioShack 15 years ago.
They also picked up a couple of iPhone car chargers.
“It’s like seeing Sears or Montgomery Ward’s go,” Dinah Riddle said. “But you have to keep up with the times.”
Her husband added: “We’ve been shopping at RadioShack for 60 years. When I was in high school in the mid-’50s, I can remember when they graduated from being a leather company to a radio and electronics company.”
Don Bassham, a retired office supply businessman who now lives in Southlake, remembered the importance of RadioShack and parent company Tandy Corp. to Fort Worth’s downtown revitalization.
Bassham worked at Hogan Office Supply in downtown Fort Worth for 36 years, so he feels an emotional attachment to a company that was such an important part of the landscape for decades. On Friday, he bought an iPhone cover with a $40 list price for $22.
Bassham has fond memories of shopping at a variety of RadioShack locations, particularly one on Belknap Street. But he acknowledges he hasn’t been a frequent shopper in recent years.
“The main thing I’m concerned about is all the employees in Fort Worth and in other areas losing their jobs,” Bassham said. “But with the fact they’ve been taught by the best, I suppose they should be able to find jobs. The managers and employees are very helpful, so that’s what I will miss.”
Employees at the North Richland Hills and Hurst stores said they couldn’t comment on the bankruptcy and referred questions to RadioShack’s corporate headquarters.
At both stores, the workers were peppered with questions from customers about the closings.
In North Richland Hills, one couple asked a worker “What will happen to you and the other employees?”
The worker just shrugged and said, “We haven’t been told anything yet.”
“Will you go to work at Sprint?” one of the customers asked.
The worker again shrugged.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796