Radio Shack closes its doors after 31 years

POSTED: 11/6/13 1:24 PM

St. Maarten – After a bit more than 31 years, Radio Shack on the Longwall Road will close its doors at the end of this year. Barbara Cannegieter started the store in October 1982 and Iona Dorothal has been her store manager for a very long time. “It was a very difficult decision for us,” Cannegieter says in the store’s small upstairs office. “This has always been my baby.”

Cannegieter says that her husband loves electronics and whenever the couple traveled to the United States, they would always find a Radio Shack outlet. “No matter how small the place, if there was only a gas station, there was also a Radio Shack nearby,” she says.

Obtaining a franchise for St. Maarten turned out to be easy, and in the early going Radio Shack was it in St. Maarten because there simply were no other electronics stores. “It has been a wonderful experience. In the beginning nobody had the accessories that we offered. We did business with technicians, also with TelEm and Gebe used to buy its voltmeters here.”

The second floor of the building turned into a paradise for kids when Christmas rolled around. “It was toy-land here,” Cannegieter says. “We really filled a need.”

Accessories, like connectors, cables and batteries were the mainstay of Radio Shack’s assortment. “Nobody had as wide an assortment as we did,” Cannegieter says, adding that her store also did great business in landline telephones.

But over time, the market has changed, and Radio Shack appeared no longer able to beat the competition. “We did not get the right pricing from Radio Shack International,” Cannegieter says “Even though we sold a lot of the early Radio Shack computers to young people.”

While the market changed and Asian brands like Sony and Panasonic flooded the market, Radio Shack stuck to its own brands.

These days the store is no longer profitable and with pain in her heart, Cannegieter has been forced to close the business at the end of this year.

What will happen with the building is unclear. “I own it, that is why we have never moved,” she says. “I have not thought about what to do with the building. Before we had parking across the street, but when that area was closed off three years ago, we lost that facility. Customers like to be able to park close to a store.”

The building stands on a special location: an ancient Jewish burial ground. In October of last year, rabbi Moshe blessed a solid bronze plaque that marks the site.

The area around the Radio Shack store has lost some of its buzz as well, after nearby businesses left and the neighborhood became more residential.

While an electronics store may not seem the first choice for women to run, Cannegieter and Dorothal say they loved every minute of it and that they learned the business gradually. One of the things they will miss is the homeliness that came with customers who were always ready to help each other and exchange advice about how to repair a certain piece of equipment.

Until the end of the year, Radio Shack is offering its customers 50 percent discount on its remaining stock. What people absolutely ought to buy before Radio Shack is no more? Dorothal and Cannegieter reflect for only a couple of seconds. “Connectors,” they say almost at the same time. “We have plenty of them and people are always looking for the right one.”



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