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

18 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


13 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!


7 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.


9 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.


11 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


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

But... do no harm?


11 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.


9 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.


4 people like this
Posted by SukwinderDixit
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 19, 2018 at 9:12 pm

SukwinderDixit is a registered user.

It will always be my first


4 people like this
Posted by kc7gr
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2018 at 1:57 pm

Speaking as someone who's (shopping) history with WeirdStuff goes all the way back to 1986, and as one who's continued to make multiple visits despite moving to WA state in 1993....

Google's favorite slogan seems to be "Don't Be Evil" or some variant thereof. I think, in light of this particular clusterfsck, they should add "Unless we need more office space (which we'll probably never use)" to the end of it.

Chuck Schuetz is considerably more forgiving than I feel at the moment. As far as I'm concerned, Google can implode at their earliest convenience.




4 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2018 at 8:10 pm

That's a shame. I used to go to Weird Stuff quite a bit a long time ago.
I think Halted in Santa Clara is still open though ... right off of Central Expwy.


5 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2018 at 8:18 pm

I cannot blame Google for doing what American Corporations all do unless
we all are willing to work to change the American corporate model, which I
do see happening any time soon.

What I do blame Google is for basically not improving their product significantly
in almost the last 15 years. It's not really any faster, better, and there are not
really significant improvements in narrowing searching for pages, videos or
images. Now that they have us, like Apple they reducing their services

No better search options for Google or You-Tube, so one has to wonder
what it is they are doing ... and the likely answer to that is finding ways as good
or better to invade our privacy and sell out data as Facebook.


3 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2018 at 9:06 pm

"What I do blame Google is for basically not improving their product significantly
in almost the last 15 years. It's not really any faster, better, and there are not
really significant improvements in narrowing searching for pages, videos or
images."

LOL what? It went from being a really good keyword search engine to being able to answer natural human language queries. You can even talk to it like the computer on Star Trek now.


4 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2018 at 11:29 pm

> LOL what? It went from being a really good keyword search engine to being able to answer natural human language queries. You can even talk to it like the computer on Star Trek now.

I guess that's great if you can't type or find someone to talk to. ;-)


5 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2018 at 11:43 pm

"I guess that's great if you can't type or find someone to talk to. ;-)"

Exactly, it's perfect for you!


1 person likes this
Posted by FatVet and DorkBear
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 10, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Thad said: Sadly the only businesses who can afford to operate here will be huge national chains.

Last time I went early this year it seemed like most of the decent usable gear had long since gone - same with outback in Gilroy and Halted in Santa Clara.

You ask me they were lucky to be able to sell to these kinds of companies in the first place and get enough to pay off their debts in the first place and be able to pay for their business wind down expenses in the second place.

Commercial greed is sadly all over the place now. Once De Anza College's swapmeet moved to the Fry's parking lot - most of the oddball vendors from De Anza had mostly retired and been replaced by the same 8,000 vendors that sell innumerable Chinese knockoff knick-knacks that have invaded every other swapmeet in California - like at the Oakland Coliseum or the Veterans Memorial swapmeet.

For whoever hasn't been walking down University Ave in Palo Alto or Castro St in Mountain View after a yr or two - the quirky offbeat vibe there has been gradually disappearing for a long time.

And it's not just in the Valley. We were just in Santa Cruz Boardwalk and Monterey Aquarium last weekend after about four years - and the cultural destruction's invaded there too.

All the arts colonies and similar kinds of enclaves are all being sold off to people who can't afford Santa Clara County but who still need to be within reasonable proximity in order to survive,

Or how about the startup business incubator that used to be on the corner of Central Expy and Wolfe? Between the new strip mall going in on the N side of Arques behind Lowe's before you get to Fry's and the TWO new Apple campuses on the S side of Arques - life in Sunnyvale is going to hell in a handbasket fast because

Thad said: There is no where for the 10000s of additional people to live.

Except there is (or will be). All kinds of companies are factoring in on-campus housing like they do in India and China where the shoebox tight accommodations about the size of a funeral casket are included with the other benefits like healthcare.

And the ones that are doing off-campus housing - look at all the e.g. Vallco Plaza and the old HP campus across the street from there and etc etc etc. Before long, the South Bay will have the same density and quality of life as Midtown Manhattan before the Renaissance and all the local culture will have long since disappeared.

Since all these global conglomerates are going to be flying in all their own people - all of whom will think they'll be living like kings and queens because the casket sized accommodations are NEW instead of all beat to hell like they are at home - nobody will care.

Once Americans start wanting these jobs and are willing to live in these coffin-sized accommodations - then all the ridiculously priced off-campus housing will start to go down and not until.

THAT'S when the economy of Silicon Valley will crash - when Americans refuse to have their standard of living revert to something out of an Indian or Chinese slum.

When the companies can't deal with it anymore - they'll declare bankruptcy for their American divisions (which won't affect any of their other divisions) - leave - and go back to India or China or Malaysia.

Or maybe they'll find some bush tribe in the middle of the jungle someplace who think even the hell holes of Calcutta would be a thousand percent improvement over where they are - start over and go around again.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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