In 1972, Charles Fry sold the Fry's Supermarkets chain for $14 million to Save Mart Supermarkets. He gave a portion of the proceeds (approximately $1 million per son) to each of his sons John, Randy, and Dave, none of whom had much interest in grocery store retailing. Instead, in 1985, they joined together with a fourth partner, Kathryn Kolder (John's former girlfriend), to open the first Fry's Electronics store at a 20,000 sq ft (1,900 m2) site in Sunnyvale, California. Today, Fry's Food and Drug stores are owned and operated by Kroger and are not affiliated with Fry's Electronics, although they share a similar logo.
The original Sunnyvale store (located near the intersection of Oakmead Parkway and Lakeside Drive) stocked numerous high-tech supplies such as integrated circuits, test and measurement equipment, and computer components, as well as software and various other types of consumer electronics. The store also sold T-shirts, technical books, and magazines, including Playboy. At first, approximately half the store was stocked with groceries including fresh produce, but the groceries section quickly diminished to displays of soft drinks and snack foods. The store billed itself as "The One-Stop Shop for the Silicon Valley Professional," as one could buy both electronics and groceries at the same time.
As the business expanded, the original Sunnyvale store was closed, and a newer, larger store was opened across Lawrence Expressway on Kern Avenue. The second Sunnyvale store was designed to look like the interior of a giant computer; the walls were adorned with simulated circuit components, and the floor resembled a giant printed circuit board. The exterior was painted to mimic a huge DIP integrated circuit, and the door handles imitated the ENTER and ESC keys on a Computer keyboard; as of 2007, this store is now a Sports Basement store (which still bears some of the door handle keys). Fry's moved again to its current Sunnyvale location on the corner of Arques and Santa Trinita Ave. Each of the Sunnyvale store locations has been located within one mile of the others.
In 1996, for reasons that the Fry brothers have never publicly disclosed, they transferred all their shares of Fry's Electronics to a limited liability company called RDL, LLC, and a limited partnership called The Taw, L.P. (the latter also controls the former), and since then, they have controlled Fry's Electronics indirectly through those entities. Their existence became publicly known in January 2012 because Randy Fry's ex-wife, Laurie Hammer had attempted to challenge a post-nuptial settlement agreement under which she agreed to accept "units" of The Taw in settlement of her claims against Randy. On January 23, 2012, the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth District upheld the trial court's dismissal of her lawsuit in an unpublished opinion.
Because Fry's stores are enormous, often stocking dozens of variations of a single type of product, they are popular with electronics and computer hobbyists. Historically, Circuit City and CompUSA were major competitors, but they collapsed during the late-2000s recession, leaving Best Buy as Fry's main competitor. Unlike Best Buy, Fry's sells not only fully assembled computers, but all the individual components which consumers need to build their own from scratch.
As of May 2007, Fry's Electronics operated 34 brick-and-mortar stores in nine U.S. states: California (17 stores); Texas (8); Arizona (2); Georgia (2); Illinois (1); Indiana (1); Nevada (1); Oregon (1); and Washington (1).
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