Radio Shack and Wiley’s Trattoria, two long-standing businesses on Ashland Street near Walker, are fading into history.
Radio Shack, an Ashland icon for 42 years, closes at the end of March and will be taken over totally by Sprint, the cell-phone giant which bought the spot and has had a corner of it for two years.
Wiley’s Trattoria, formerly Wiley’s World, a longtime pasta house, was sold in 2015 to a new owner who kept menu and expanded the space to 70 seats from 34 by taking over the space previously occupied by Four & Twenty Blackbirds Bakery, which moved to A Street. Wiley's now it stands empty, with no sign in windows. It’s Facebook hasn’t had an entry this year. “Yelpers” reported the closure on Yelp.
Wiley's is next to the old Beanery at the Walker Avenue corner, a stone's throw northwest of Radio Shack. The Beanery, which operated 41 years unto it closed two years ago, sits on the same 2.5-acre tax lot as Wiley's and a trailer court to their south, all owned by Pacific Properties. The “Bean” building, listed for lease with John L. Scott Realty, is still empty, coming up on two years after its abrupt closure in May 2015. Wiley’s was not yet listed on the multiple listing service as for sale or lease as of last week. The Beanery is listed for lease by owner.
Matthew, who works at Radio Shack, declined to give his last name and can’t speak about the huge chain because of policies of the corporation, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, said he’s been at the Ashland store since 2007 and has only been unemployed a couple days in his life, so he’s not worried about finding work.
Corporate media relations could not be reached.
Terriel Thomas has served in the “lead position” position role for two years at the Sprint store inside the Radio Shack store. He said, “My heart is broken, honestly. Matthew has been a big brother to me and I learned the trade of selling phones from him. The presence of Radio Shack offered the opportunity for customers to get interested in what we sell."
Going through many drawers of tiny electrical parts, Michael, a customer who declined to give his last name, said, “I’m pretty upset because I build a lot of things and I look at parts to get ideas. You can actually see and study them, but if you buy online, you never know. Matthew is a great guy and really helpful.”
Another Radio Shack customer, who declined to give his name, said he enjoyed being a member of the “battery club” where you’d get a new battery every week, free. Without Radio Shack, he said the best place in Ashland to get electrical goods might be Bi-Mart.
Thad Marks, a Radio Shack customer for 10 years, said, “I’m sorry to see the corporation close a great store. You build relationships with people like Matthew over the years and it helps you feel you knew stuff. But the corporation decides, even though it’s profitable, they’re not going to do it anymore. They’re losing valuable employees. It’s been so convenient.”
On Ashland Street, Sprint will compete with fellow cell phone service purveyors AT&T, about a half-block away to the west, and U.S. Cellular to the east, nearly a mile away.
General Wireless Operations Inc., which owns Radio Shack, announced March 8 it was filing bankruptcy and planned to close approximately 200 stores and "evaluate options" on the remaining 1,300. There are also another 425 independent dealer stores.
After closing of the Ashland store, the nearest Radio Shacks will be in Grants Pass and Klamath Falls. Neither appear on a list picked up from a federal bankruptcy court filing of Radio Shack locations expected to be shuttered by the end of March that was posted on the Consumerist website.
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.