EPO a true Houston Hidden Gem

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Hisotric Retail! Today, we’re celebrating a business that is beloved by many in the tech community, Electronic Parts Outlet, aka EPO. Now, many loyal readers will likely ask the question, who in the world doesn’t know about EPO? Well, lots of people. If you were an electronics junkie in Houston during the 90s and early 2000s, you likely read about EPO online. Although in the days of social media, EPO has been relegated to a ‘hidden gem.’ It’s a great place if you know about it, but you have to know about it. For most of its existence, EPO has resided on Fondren in between Richmond and Westheimer. Located across from the former home of Suniland/Louis Shanks Furniture, the lone outpost had an unrelated cousin in Webster. While it appears that very early on, the two EPOs had some commonalities, possibly including ownership, the current owners of EPO deny the stores were ever connected. Speaking of ownership, the Fondren location was definitely the first, opening in 1985; Webster would not open until 1988. I’m not sure of the exact layout of the timeline, but according to some of the more senior employees I’ve spoken to, their understanding was Dan Bretch opened the Fondren store with a partner, who sold his shares of the store to open the Webster location. Granted, this is all second gossip, but it seems plausible. Under Bretch’s ownership, EPO quickly gained a reputation as an “electronics fixer”; if you needed something, EPO had it. If they didn’t have it, they could get it for you.

Around 2010, Daniel Bretch and his wife completed work on a passion project, Industrial Country Market. Located in a large corner lot at the I-10 and Highway 71 interchange in Columbus, the store was completely off-grid and designed to be quirky. The product selection was varied: kites to spices, chocolate to hardware, DIY kits, and other odds and ends. Anyone even vaugely attracted to the DIY scene could find something you’d never seen, and you’d probably want to buy it too. However, the merchandise mix was a secondary attraction to the impressive off-grid tech, and industrial art, which was featured prominently in the new store. Bretch had long offered classes at EPO, and continued this tradition with his new venture. However, in 2014, Industiral Country Market would take over as his first priority, and Bretch would sell EPO to a couple of long time employees, who continue to run it to this day. Little has changed since the switch over. EPO is still Houston’s premire “electronic fixers”, I mean not only do they carry vaccum tubes, they have a tester! In a digital age, there’s something charming about the lack of web presence by EPO. While this can be a detriment to finding huge numbers of new customers, it’s easy to see that EPO it at least trying to catch up in this regard. After putting out a request for regular shoppers during the pandemic, the future of EPO is a bit shaky. However, based on my last visit there are plenty of things worth buying, and at least a base of core customers. If you’ve never been, EPO is really a hidden gem, and even a non-electronics nut would be able to find something worth buying.


  1. I miss the one in Webster (before it downsized and became crappy, then vanished entirely). Since the Webster Frys went out of business, we have no decent electronics outlet down here in NASA land. Sigh.

  2. They have a youtube channel that can give the uninitiated a flavor or EPO world.

    Not just for ‘tronics folk; almost anyone can find something of use or interest to buy and take home. It combines electronic equipment, parts, tools, accessories with a flea market and resale shop vibe. You never know what you might find. Cannot be compared with any other store in Houston.

  3. EPO had a location in the Willowbrook Court shopping center in the Willowbrook Mall parking lot. EPO was in the north part of Willowbrook Court which was demolished to make way for the Toys R Us/current Best Buy Outlet. There was an independent computer store nearby in Willowbrook Court, PC Parts & Service I think was their name.

    Anyway, I went to the Willowbrook EPO a couple of times when it was still around the early 2000s if I remember correctly. The Willowbrook EPO was certainly not the fanciest store in terms of decor or organization, but they had a lot of stuff which you couldn’t find anywhere else and that included Radio Shack’s parts bins. It was a neat store to have around in this area, but unfortunately it didn’t last. With Radio Shack and Fry’s going away, however, I am glad EPO is still around even if it isn’t very close to me now. At least it is an option when I need that random fuse, capacitor, or electrical contact cleaner when I’m working on Hi-Fi equipment or something like that.

  4. While there, ask about their combat robot classes! They have been the main venue for Houston robot combat for a couple of years now.

    EPO is even older than that… I don’t know when Dan started it but I was shopping there in 1981 when it was on Park West Drive, just off Fondren a bit. The old shopping strip isn’t there any longer.