Fry’s can now join the company of Blockbuster, Sports Chalet, Linens-N-Things, Thom McAn, Sports Authority, Circuit City, Federated, Tower Records, Mervyn’s, and CompUSA as stores that have gone out of business in the last decade.
Fry’s, at Hollywood Way and Vanowen, was one of the crown jewels for Burbank to land back when it opened in 1995 with huge crowds and aisles stocked to the brim with merchandise. It was like a candy store for any nerd, geek, or technology wizard and you could find anything you needed for any electronic project.
It also was a great source of tax revenue for the City, and along with Price Club (now Costco) gave a powerful one-two punch for sales tax that helped fill City coffers. According to the City’s website, “In accordance with the City’s Bradley-Burns Uniform Sales Tax ordinance, the Board of Equalization allocates the City’s sales tax, 1% of taxable sales occurring in Burbank, to the City.”
The City of Burbank gave Fry’s a 10-year loan to locate in the City and at the time they said Burbank would be their only location in the San Fernando Valley. Later, however, they opened a second location in Woodland Hills that has already been sold and multifamily, commercial office, and/or hospitality space on the 8.8-acre site has been submitted to Los Angeles officials. Burbank’s loan to Fry’s was forgiven in the amount of $3,185,323 in full, 10 years after opening in the form of sales tax.
The Burbank Fry’s property, which back in the late 1950’s was a Unimart, has already been spoken for as LaTerra Development, the developers that are doing the project at 777 N. Front Street in Burbank, have already filed for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to develop the property.
According to Simone McFarland in an email, she said that, “La Terra, the same developer of 777 Front Street, has submitted a Conditional Use Permit and Development Review for their project. They are proposing two scenarios: 863 residential units, with 9,000 sq. ft. of retail and 81,000 sq. ft. of office space; or 863 residential units, with 9,000 sq. ft. of retail and 150,000 sq. ft. of office space.” A check of City records shows an application for Project # 200003289 was filed in July of 2020.
She also added that the property was zoned C3 Commercial General Business. “The C-3 or Commercial General Business Zone is intended for general business establishments and other commercial uses which are related directly to the highway for patronage. Residential mixed-use is permitted with a Conditional Use Permit”, said McFarland.
To be awarded the CUP, the project will have to go through the Planning Board plus there will be public input. Nothing has been scheduled yet.
For many, the closing of Fry’s was sad news.
myBurbank reached out through social media to get some local reactions to the closure:
“Fry’s was the first kitschy place my husband took me to when I first moved to Burbank. I loved the concept of a themed electronics store, and I adore old sci fi movies, so it really tickled me. We always went there for any electronics needs, but had the suspicion it wasn’t going to be around much longer. Last time we went I made sure to take pictures of our daughter near the displays to remember it by should it close. There’s a hole in our consumer hearts. Pour one out for the real ones… we will never be a Best Buy family.”
“I worked at the Burbank Fry’s starting two weeks before the store opened. I took the job because I had to: my family needed the money.. Not that anyone would ever get rich working for Fry’s. But an income was an income and I took it. I started out as a cashier and some nights when I got home my feet hurt so much I didn’t know if I could walk from the car to the house.
It took me about a year to work my way up to Customer Service supervisor at the magnificent wage of $7.75/hr. Granted that was worth a little more in 1997 than it is today, but like I was saying about never getting rich….
I also worked as a will-call associate, which in retrospect I liked better than any other position I had, and a returns-desk associate, laboring under the original invented-at-Fry’s system which involved no computers and filling out a lot of triplicate forms by hand. One per item returned. Then I moved to what was called the “audit office,” which was a prerequisite to being a supervisor, counting money under the supervision of someone who rode to work on a broom.
Finally got promoted to supervisor (#6 ot 7) and managed to deal with all the Fry brothers’ dumb homemade systems. From there I was transferred to computer telephone sales. I enjoyed that job and I liked the work environment, but selling computers and accessories over the phone is nobody’s idea of a dream job. After a little over a year, one of the switchboard operators quit and I put in for that job and got it.
In my time at Fry’s I was the first woman promoted to sales in the computer department. First person of any gender to pass the A+ certification test. First woman to work in the repair shop although I was never officially on their staff. None of that earned me one cent more. Also, bar code scanners did not come into use till right before I left. Can you picture running a big box store with no bar code scanners? We managed it.
I must say that the people I worked with at Fry’s Burbank were some of the best co-workers I ever had. We had a lot of outright fun working in that store. But in the end, when I found a job that paid a living wage, I took it.
I used to shop at Fry’s Burbank now and again. There were still some of those good people left as recently as a year ago. I just hope they all got out while the getting was good.”