SAN JOSE, Calif. - It’s the end of an era in the South Bay. Fry's Electronics, Inc. will permanently close its online and storefront shops, a response partly due to the pandemic.
At the company’s Sunnyvale location, a worker hurriedly posted the closure notice on a store door, then pulled closed a large metal security gate, signaling the end of days.
"It’s a sad day. It’s really a sad day," said patron Derrick Donnelly.
He and others snapped pictures of the store closing sign. Some said they’ve been going to Fry’s as long as they’ve been alive.
"I’ve been coming to Fry’s my whole life. I’ve been in the Bay Area since I was a baby. My dad used to take me here. And I remember the lines used to be huge," said customer Daniel Hernandez.
Executives for the company released a statement that read in part they've "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 has started winding down operations in its 31 stores across nine states.
"Fry’s was directly exposed. And then in the last couple of years they set out to be more like Best Buy, but apparently, it didn’t work so well," said San Jose State University strategic management prof. Dr. Robert Chapman Wood.
He said changing economics, coupled with a global pandemic, ultimately killed off Fry’s as has happened to other businesses. But Fry’s was much more than just another business. It’s been family-owned in the South Bay since the days when Fry’s was a grocery store. Its corporate footprint grew over the decades and now stretches from tech to the world of sports.
The company headlined an annual PGA tour event in San Martin. And one Fry’s family member owned the San Jose Sabercats arena football team. Despite this, Fry’s calling card remained electronics.
"In many ways, Fry’s made computers and high tech more accessible to a lot of people who were not necessarily in the tech industries," said Dr. Chuck Darrah, a San Jose State University anthropology professor emeritus. Added Fry’s customer Peter Kuo, "it was our childhood memory. And I feel like, hopefully today is a new beginning that people can realize retail is still a big part of our lives."
Such a realization may come, after the death of a chain of stores many say felt more like family.