The Customers Called: We Want Our Old Radio Shack Back!

April 9, 2020

Did you happen to catch Radio Shack’s commercial during the Big Game this past weekend? It was a great flashback to Radio Shack stores of the 1980s. The spot began with a Radio Shack employee talking on the phone. When the call was finished, he tells his co-worker “The 80s called. They want their store back.” As a huge Radio Shack fan of past decades, I would say “Your old customers called. We want our 1970s/80s Radio Shack back!”

As a child of the seventies and early eighties, Radio Shack was that one special store. It was the retailer I loved more than any other. I would beg my mom to take me there whenever we were out shopping. They had a “Battery of the Month Club” to get people into the stores. You were issued a card which you would then bring back each month for a free battery. Your choice of “D”, “C”, “AA”, or 9-volt cells. I would always choose a 9-volt because they were the most expensive and also because I had several transistor radios and walkie-talkies which used these batteries. Of course, I had multiple cards: one for each Radio Shack store in my area!

When I was 8, I built my first radio transmitter. Naturally, it came from Radio Shack. The Science Fair AM Broadcaster Kit cost $7.95 and contained all the necessary parts to build a low power AM transmitter. Once assembled, it would transmit to a distance of about 40 feet. Your parents could hear you and so could the next-door neighbors if you lived close enough. After learning how to perform a few “modifications”, the rest of the neighborhood could hear me, too 🙂

Also when I was 8, I received a Archer Space Patrol Base Station for Christmas. This was a self-contained unit that would receive all 23 CB channels as well as standard AM broadcasts. It would also transmit with low power on CB Channel 14. (This was the channel that nearly all of the “kiddie” walkie-talkies used at the time.) For me, it was an introduction to the wonderful world of CB radio. A few years later when I got a “real” CB, the antenna, coaxial cable, and mounting hardware all came from Radio Shack.

I can’t count the number of other products that I purchased from Radio Shack during this time: TV antennas, FM antennas, antenna rotors, police scanners, car stereos, electronic project kits (remember the P-Box kits?), FlavoRadios, Deskube radios, soldering pencils, tape recorders, and parts. Oh, those glorious parts aisles of yestetyear! A seemingly endless number of peg hooks, each holding a specific value of transistor, resistor, diode, capacitor, or cable connector/adapter. I made so many parts purchases that I knew the layout better than the employees. I’d walk in, the guy or gal behind the counter would say “Can I help you”, and I’d respond “I know where it is. Thanks!”

I sure miss the Radio Shack stores of the 1970s and 80s. Are they ever coming back? Doubtful. Very doubtful. Recent reports suggest the company is getting ready to close around 500 stores. This is in addition to the several hundred that were closed back in 2006. Will The Shack survive in it’s present form? Guess we’ll have to wait and see. But wouldn’t it be fun to travel back in time and walk through the doors of that Radio Shack store as it was in 1975? We can dream, can’t we?