Corporate Home
About Us Press Room Investor Relations Community Relations ContactsCareers
VisionHistoryTimelineFact SheetStudent Pack



Started on a Shoestring
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, Theodore and 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 in 1921, 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. Although the 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 by servicemen 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 a five-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 1950 when 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 had reached 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 in November 1959. He moved the corporation's headquarters to Fort Worth the following year, and the name of the company was changed to Tandy Corporation. On Nov. 14, 1960, the company's stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "TAN." (When the name of the company was changed from Tandy Corporation to RadioShack Corporation in May 2000, the NYSE symbol became "RSH.")

Tandy Corporation Acquires RadioShack
RadioShack continued to do quite well. It issued its first catalog in the early 1940s. In 1947, the company entered the growing high-fidelity market and opened the nation's first audio showroom that provided comparisons of speakers, amplifiers, turntables and phonograph cartridges. In 1954, RadioShack began selling its own private-label product line with the Realistic® brand name.

By the early 1960s, RadioShack had expanded to nine retail stores (plus a mail-order business) and was a leading distributor of electronic parts and products to do-it-yourselfers around the world. However, the company soon fell on hard times due to poor operating practices, coupled with a disastrous credit offering to its customers.

Charles Tandy, who had become intrigued with consumer electronics, saw the small RadioShack chain as an excellent opportunity for rapid growth. He bought the essentially bankrupt company in 1963 for the equivalent of $300,000 cash, and embarked on a plan that turned it into one of the great success stories of American retailing. Since then, RadioShack has grown to more than 7,300 stores, and its net sales and operating revenues have ballooned to $4.8 billion.

In 1975, Tandy Corporation became exclusively an electronics company after it spun off all other operations into Tandycrafts and Tandy Brands. In 1986, the company spun off its foreign retail operations into InterTAN, Inc.

Products That Took America by Storm
The decade of the '70s was pivotal for RadioShack. It was a time of incredible growth –not only in the number of stores that were opened, but in the quantity, quality and sophistication of the products available at the company's stores and dealers.

Following on the heels of the phenomenal popularity of citizen-band (CB) radios, the company had another instant hit. In 1977, RadioShack introduced the first mass-produced personal computer: the TRS-80® microcomputer. In contrast to build-it-yourself units available at the time, the TRS-80 was fully wired and tested. Although a primitive machine by today's standards, it was a technological and price breakthrough, and overwhelming customer demand caused a production backlog that lasted for months. Over 200,000 TRS-80 Model I computers were sold from 1977 to 1981.

The '80s continued to make RadioShack the "biggest name in little computers," as the company's advertising proclaimed. In addition, RadioShack offered the first affordably priced stereo receiver with digital technology, the first mobile/portable cellular telephone that consumers could install themselves and the first high-performance satellite TV system that could be installed by the do-it-yourselfer.

The '90s brought a rejuvenation of RadioShack's core business. The company saw an explosion in personal communications. The company invented the Family Radio Service (FRS), which uses license-free 2-way personal radios. Today, RadioShack sells more wireless phones than any other retailer.

RadioShack in the 21st Century
RadioShack has formed strategic alliances with some of the best known and most trusted brands in the consumer electronics and computer industries – including Compaq, Microsoft, RCA, Sprint and Verizon Wireless – to create our unique Store-Within-A-Store concept.

Like no other retailer in our industry, and quite possibly in any industry, RadioShack has positioned itself for consistent and sustained growth. In just over five years, RadioShack has essentially "reinvented" itself into an innovative company that is, with each passing year, moving further from a traditional retailer to a leading-edge growth company.

To accomplish our goal, we have created three distinct Strategic Business Units (SBUs) that are each responsible for an anchor product and service category. Our three SBUs are: Connecting People, which is our telecommunications business, and includes wireless devices and accessories, radio communications devices, and phones; Connecting Places, which is our home connectivity business, and includes computers, high-speed Internet and audio/video; and Connecting Things, which is our parts, batteries and accessories business, and also includes personal electronics and toys.

Today, RadioShack Corporation continues to lead the way as one of the nation's largest retailers of consumer electronics.

Chairmen of the Board

Charles D. Tandy, 1961-1978
Phil R. North, 1978-1982
John V. Roach, 1982-1999
Leonard H. Roberts, 1999-present


Return to top