Fry’s Closes Doors Nationally – New Development Already Planned for Burbank Site

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Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

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.

MT
Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

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.

Unimart Burbank around 1956

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.

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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.

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

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:

“When they first opened, it was on old Lockheed land that nobody wanted. It was next to the rail line and the Airport was next-door. The only City services they used were water, electricity and the occasional call to the Police Dept for thieves. They then pumped millions of dollars into City coffers in the form of sales tax. They also hired locals and provided jobs.”
 
-Robert Carlborg-
(Photo supplied by Kolleen Carney)

“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.”

-Kolleen Carney-

“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….

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

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.”

-Marte-

MT

5 COMMENTS

  1. I moved from Hawaii to San Diego to work for an aerospace company that was negotiating a contract with Lockheed. Early in 1986, we flew to Burbank (company plane!) and went to the Lockheed admin building – later it became Fry’s. Except for conference offices on the north side of the building, the entire floor space was open for desks. I had never seen anything like that! Across Hollywood Way was a trailer park.
    I was a regular Fry’s customer and will miss it, along with Electronic City, etc.

  2. This is a great article. I love the reactions from people who either worked at Fry’s or shopped there.

    It’s been obvious to anyone who went to Fry’s in the last 5 years that the store was on the way out. Who can compete with online sales? Even with the “planned obsolescence” of our tech devices, many electronics stores are closing brick and mortar stores and switching go online sales only.

    When I shopped at Fry’s, I loved that I could investigate and touch anything I wanted to buy. Yes, many of us were pricing things and then trying to find the product somewhere else for a cheaper price, but lots of times, it was just easier to purchase it at Fry’s.

    It’s a very sad sign of the times that this fine, old-fashioned business is forced to shutter at a time when our city could use the tax revenue, and our resident’s could use the touch and feel of consumer goods.

    Thank you, Fry’s, for being a part of Burbank for so long, and for providing us with some of the consumer goods we’re still using.

  3. Before Fry’s that building was a Lockheed administration building. Before Lockheed the building was a department store called Unimart that was built and opened in 1962. Before that. Before Unimart the lot was a dairy farm and the property went all the way West to the Aimee McPherson Cemetery before Valhalla took it over and then East to Hollywood way. North and South borders were Vanowen to the North and Valhalla on the South. There was a very small dairy story on Hollywood way in front of where the underpass is now where we would buy milk. A little white stucco building about the size of a Altadena Dairy store without the drive through part. I remember seeing and smelling the cows along Valhalla as we drove up Screenland from Pacific. I also remember 3 silos on the North west corner of the Fry’s parking log along Vanowen. I sure hate to see that building go and all those housing units go in there. Just more poor planning by Burbank’s planning dept and city management. Burbank use to be a nice place to live. Now it is way overcrowded. It was a beautiful city when I grew up there in the 60’s snd 70’s.

  4. Very sad that Frys is gone. Thank you to all that wrote something. It is sad that money talks so strong in our cities that are being ruined by overcrowding conditions. I too miss the the good old days

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