The story of RadioShack begins in 1919 in Fort Worth, Texas, with a chance meeting of two friends, Norton Hinckley and Dave L. Tandy (1889-1966). During their visit, these ambitious young fellows decided to pool their resources and go into business together. Their venture, which the two gentlemen named the Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company, sold leather shoe parts (soles,heels and shoelaces) to shoe repair shops in the Fort Worth area.
Although the partners had no way of knowing it at the time, their humble beginning would evolve into RadioShack Corporation – a multifaceted, multibillion dollar company, and one of the nation's largest retailers of consumer electronics.
The First RadioShack Store
Two years later and half a continent away, two brothers, Theodoreand Milton Deutschmann, opened a one-store retail and mail-order operation in the heart of downtown Boston. They chose the name, "RadioShack," which was a term for the small, wooden structure that housed a ship's radio equipment. The Deutschmanns thought the name was appropriate for a store that would supply the needs of radio officers aboard ships, as well as "ham" radio operators.
Beginning in1921, RadioShack would grow to a handful of stores clustered in the Northeast, and become a leading electronics mail-order distributor to hobbyists. This is how it would remain until the company and a young Texan named Charles Tandy crossed paths four decades later.
Charles Tandy Joins the Family Business
Meanwhile, the Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company grew modestly through the years. Althoughthe company survived the Great Depression, it was nearly crippled when World War II began in 1941. Shoes were rationed – two pairs per adult per year – and leather for civilian use virtually disappeared.
Mr. Tandy's oldest son, Charles D. Tandy (1918-1978), while serving in the Navy during the war, observed how leathercraft was used as a therapeutic tool for patients in military hospitals and byservicemen in recreation and rehabilitation centers. He told his father that leathercraft was the way to steer the company during the war years – and to prepare for what he believed would be a healthy, new, post-war hobby market.
Tandy Leather Company Formed
Charles Tandy returned to Fort Worth in 1947 a driven and demanding man with big dreams. The Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company was afive-store and mail-order catalog operation with about $750,000 in annual sales. Pretty good for those times but not good enough for Charles.
Charles firmly believed in the high gross-profit margins of the leathercraft business and the growth possibilities of the leisure-time hobby market. His views clashed with those of the family's partner, Norton Hinckley. The disagreement ended in a split in 1950when Charles and his father formed Tandy Leather Company, while Hinckley kept the shoe business.
Tandy Corporation Listed on the New York Stock Exchange
By 1954, Charles' enthusiasm for providing the leather parts and tools to make wallets and other items had grown the Tandy Leather Company to 67 stores in 36 states and Hawaii, with sales of $8 million. Although successful, the company hadreached a point where coping with estate and management problems inherent in a privately held family business dictated selling the enterprise to gain a listing on a major stock exchange to attract investors and finance expansion.
Tandy Leather Company was sold to American Hide and Leather of Boston, a respected New England firm, which changed its name to General American Industries after the merger.Following a string of unsuccessful acquisitions, the firm soon found itself in financial trouble. Profits from the Tandy organization were used to cover losses of the parent company, instead of going toward expansion of the leathercraft business as Charles had originally planned.
Tandy began a struggle for control of the company. He prevailed four years later and was elected Chairman of the Board...