"Andy Cohen waves his arm at the electrical miscellany hanging
around him, showing off his tubular lugs and a box labeled
"81-piece terminal assortment". Cohen is holding court at the back
of the RadioShack store he owns in Sebastopol, California. To his
left, a tattooed kid fishes through a metal chest of drawers
labeled "fast-acting/slow-blow 3ag-type". Another cabinet is
labeled "capacitors: electrolytic, radial (pcb-mount) leads, axial
(in-line) leads". Behind him, a spinning rack is hung with baggies
containing dozens of different brass and gold solderless
connectors. They're the little widgets you think of when you think
of RadioShack — the sort of electronic parts the company once
had a near monopoly on but that are increasingly hard to find
there. Cohen gets much of his supply direct from China. "Where are
you going to find all these different kinds of solder? A selection
of five soldering irons? All these connectors?" Cohen says. "Other
RadioShacks, they hide this stuff or don't buy enough of it
anymore. We go out of our way to show you these things."
"Cohen is 54, with a gruff voice and the intense, deep-set eyes
of an older Joaquin Phoenix. As a kid, he built computers, yammered
on ham radios, and took special trips to the electronics shops in
Lower Manhattan with his dad. He also pored over the RadioShack
catalog the day it arrived, studying up on what was then
cutting-edge technology — reel-to-reel tape decks, fax
machines — and the pages and pages of arcane electronic
"Cohen bought this store in 2003 after 25 years as a project
manager at companies like Hughes Aircraft and Hewlett-Packard.
Housed in a strip mall between a pet supply shop and a dry cleaner,
it is not among RadioShack's 4,470 corporate-owned stores but one
of about 1,400 franchised dealerships."
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