News

Iconic electronics shop WeirdStuff shuts down

Popular electronics store ousted by Google

A relic of Silicon Valley's early days, the electronics warehouse WeirdStuff is closing up shop for good this week. For more than 30 years, the Sunnyvale surplus retailer located just east of Moffett Field has been a favorite hangout for a loyal crowd of garage tinkerers, bargain hoarders and metal scrappers.

For some, WeirdStuff was like visiting the junkyard; for others it was like the free version of the Computer History Museum. Since it first opened, the electronics store has hawked all manner of surplus electronics, much of it ranging from the obscure (tablet prototypes, LaserDisc players) to the obsolete (classic floppy disk drives, 56K modems).

It all started back in 1986, when WeirdStuff founder Chuck Schuetz was working as an engineer at a floppy drive manufacturer. He hated how his company would discontinue product lines and then callously send thousands of perfectly good units into the landfill. He was convinced there must be a business niche in acquiring these surplus products on the cheap and then reselling them. So he opened his own store.

"If it had a plug or it's an electronic device, we'd apply our knowledge to figure out how we could sell it," he said. "We'd get all these people coming into the store and saying, 'What's all this weird stuff?"

Hence the name, WeirdStuff.

The store and its sprawling inventory attracted a dedicated group of customers and employees, some who have been with the shop for more than 25 years.

In some years, the business model worked like a charm, he said. WeirdStuff would buy up discontinued units from manufacturers. Then a couple years later, his shop would be the only source for finicky customers wanting an exact replacement for their aging computers.

But like many other local small businesses, WeirdStuff could no longer make it work as a retail shop amid a changing Silicon Valley. The writing was on the wall about six months ago when Google acquired the shop's Sunnyvale location with plans to build a new campus. The tech giant gave Schuetz notice that he would need to move out, but the cost of rent made it infeasible to reopen elsewhere, he said. But he doesn't begrudge the company for it.

"I have nothing bad to say about Google; they could have been a lot nastier," he said. "But it's just a shame that a lot of small companies can't make it in this area."

WeirdStuff closed for good on Monday, after signing a deal to liquidate all its remaining inventory in a sale to the Outback Equipment Company, a Gilroy-based computer parts reseller. It will take weeks to clear out the warehouse, Schuetz said, and he expects it will be a bittersweet experience.

"What's going through my mind? Nostalgia and sadness," he said. "There's so much equipment here. When you pick something up, you remember the story behind it. It's a shame that all of this won't exist anymore."

Comments

11 people like this
Posted by Electronics enthusiest
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2018 at 4:20 pm

Weird Stuff was forced to close due to Googles ever increasing
desire to expand their facilities.

Many a startup has gone to Weird Stuff for electronic supplies
and components, many of which would be available at no other source
and at reasonable prices.

This was a major loss for Silicon Valley startups


6 people like this
Posted by Notch on bedpost
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 16, 2018 at 4:49 pm

So sad that city council doesn't regulate the company town better to support small business. All I see is gentrification. Thank you Wierdstuff for all the years!


4 people like this
Posted by Rudite Emir
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2018 at 4:52 pm

Chuck, many fine memories for us, too! You helped us out many a time. I hope you enjoy your retirement.


5 people like this
Posted by PeaceLove
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 16, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Awww...This just put a major damper on my day. I LOVE(D) Weird Stuff. Really a valuable part of the Silicon Valley community. Huge loss. Not Google's fault, but rather a structural failure built into Capitalism, which prioritizes profit over all other values including community.


6 people like this
Posted by Max Hauser
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 16, 2018 at 7:10 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Great article, but I was thrown by the opening that seemed to characterize 1986 among "Silicon Valley's early days." In case you don't already know this, 1986 was very near the middle of silicon valley's well-defined 62-year history (in the longest, classic, understanding of "silicon valley," as its original users have always employed the phrase, ungarbled by way-after-the-fact mythmaking that lumped in other firms -- Hewlett-Packard, Sylvania, IBM, or whatever). Started by Shockley Semiconductor (a Bell Labs spin-off) in 1956 and leading to a famous family tree of semiconductor firms, still growing today, that prompted Hoefler to publicly dub it all "silicon valley" in 1971. "Early days" would be more like 1959 -- or 1965, when Intel co-founder Gordon Moore published his now-famous "Electronics" article forecasting the semiconductor industry's future progress.

More of the real history in this 2012 Voice article including comments: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by butwhat?
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 16, 2018 at 7:47 pm

But... do no harm?


2 people like this
Posted by Thad
a resident of another community
on Apr 17, 2018 at 7:22 am

Why does Google need more office space here? There is no where for the 10000s of additional people to live. Wierdstuff offered a great free service in the ability to drop off old electronics for salvage/proper disposal. I know people talk of Mountain View as a company town for Google somewhat jokingly, but very soon it will be true. What happens when the single company in town fails? The town also fails. People suffer needlessly. I am glad I got to be a customer of Wierdstuff before they closed. It seems like every week there is an article about some local long-lived well-loved business closing because they can no longer afford the rent here. Sadly the only businesses who can afford to operate here will be huge national chains.


2 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 17, 2018 at 6:00 pm

This is SO sad! First Haltek (which we called building three as it was right next store to a start up I worked for) then Halted, now this... Yeah, in 86 I was already old ;) My dad started at Fairchild in 1960.


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