Incredible Universe

An Incredible Idea

Incredible Universe was a chain of stores operated by the Tandy Corporation. The Tandy Corporation was an electronics company based out of Fort Worth, Texas. They began to sell pre-assembled microcomputers to home consumers, and became a huge name in the electronics industry. The company would eventually purchase a mail order company called Radio Shack which they would expand as a distribution network including retail locations. During the 1980’s electronics superstores began to take off through companies like Best Buy, and Fry’s. Tandy was having great success through their Radio Shack stores but wanted to expand into the superstore market to help supplement their small Radio Shack stores. The decision was made to open a chain called Incredible Universe. The stores were huge in comparison to other super stores averaging around 185,000 square feet. The locations almost resembled IKEA locations. They had McDonalds, day care facilities for shoppers, and a huge showrooms for displaying and demonstrating products.  The first two locations that opened were located in Arlington, Texas and Wilsonville, Oregon. The two test stores were very profitable and Tandy made the decision to expand the chain to 17 total locations.

This was likely the Dallas location. All photos were saved from a now defunct engineering site.

An Incredible Flop

The Houston location opened September 30, 1995 to much fanfare. The grand opening included a firework display. The Houston store fared relatively well but was not one of the top performers in the chain. They managed to do pretty good business on weekends but failed to attract customers during weekdays. The store suffered cutbacks along with the rest chain in May of 1996 when two locations were closed and 320 jobs were cut from the remaining stores. The chain continued to falter and finally announced their intent to close on January 6, 1997 along with the rest of the locations. At the time of closure the six top preforming stores were sold directly to Fry’s Electronics with the rest of the properties being sold to developers after a going out of business sale was completed in the end of February. The Houston property sat vacant with plans to turn it into a mixed use retail entertainment center including a movie theater falling flat. Other tenants were considered such as a call center who wanted to turn the building into office space. In 1998 Houston Community College reached a deal with the property owner to purchase the space with the intent of replacing the leased Galleria Campus in the now demolished 1200 Post Oak Office Tower. Upon purchasing the space HCCS gutted the complex, removing the loading docks. They then built inside the shell adding a second story and raising the useable square footage to around 300,000 square feet. The outside of the building has received some what of a face lift including an architectural addition to the rotunda, although it still pretty much resembles the Incredible Universe portion of its life with the original sign being used by HCCS up until 2014.

Full Location List

State/City Address
Arizona
Phoenix 2300 West Baseline Road Tempe, AZ 85283
California
Sacramento 4100 Northgate Blvd. Sacramento, CA 95834
San Diego 9825 Stonecrest Blvd. San Diego, CA 92117
Colorado
Denver 8585 South Yosemite Littleton, CO 80124
Florida
Miami 800 NW 29th Street Miami, Florida 33122
Hollywood 3401 Oakwood Blvd. Hollywood, FL 33020
Georgia
Atlanta 4000 Venture Drive NW Duluth, GA 30136
Indiana
Indianapolis 9820 Kincaid Drive Fishers, IN 46038
New York
New York City 999 Corporate Dr, Westbury, NY 11590
1001 Center St Elizabeth, NJ
Ohio
Columbus 3599 Park Mill Run Road Hilliard, OH 43026
Oregon
Portland 29400 SW Town Center Loop Wilsonville, Oregon 97070
Texas
Dallas 12710 Executive Drive Dallas, Texas 75238
102 East I-20 Arlington, Texas 76018
Houston 5601 West Loop South Houston, TX 77081
Utah
Salt Lake City 11100 S. AutoMall Drive Sandy City, UT 84070
Washington
Seattle 1101 SuperMall Way,Suite 1275 Auburn, WA 98001
4 comments on “Incredible Universe
  1. D Garza says:

    is there any way that you can look up parts for entertainment centers that were bought there?

    • Mike says:

      Unfortunately, no. You might possibly get a response out of Radio Shack, but given their present status I doubt that little to any Incredible Universe info still exists in their files. Good luck!

  2. C.Lopez says:

    I was fortunate to grow up in a small house just two streets down from the Houston location, and I’d frequently walk there as a teen and browse their wares. I probably spent hundreds of hours in that store, playing video games, demoing cds (they would allow customers to listen to any disc before buying), browsing posters, reading magazines, and eating at mcdonalds with friends or even alone. It was a massive store and in retrospect it was a very unsustainable business model, though I’m sure I didn’t help things as a broke teenager eternally browsing, rarely buying (though I did whenever possible).

    Some things that stand out in my memory – browsing the latest cd releases from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stone Temple Pilots, and No Doubt. Buying some sweet blacklight posters. Demoing several failed consoles including the Nintendo Virtual Boy, Panasonic 3DO, and Atari Jaguar. And playing Doom on a very primitive early LAN setup with several other players (one of the first networked multiplayer games). Oh, and getting some of those giant gumballs from the huge gumball machines. Great memories.

    • Mike says:

      See, I don’t remember stuff like the Incredible Universe having a McDonald’s location. However, I do remember the tech demos like the video games. I think that their failure was more due in part to management. I’m sure it didn’t help that us geeks are usually early adopters of buying things online (I can’t remember when we first ordered something from Amazon in my family but it was when they were still just a bookseller) However, the fact that Fry’s can be so successful with all these oddly designed stores just proves how successful the concept can be if you can get the right backing.

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