McDuff Electronics

Company History
McDuff Electronics started out as a small chain based out of Memphis Tennessee. Early information is scant, but the chain had stores open at least as far back as the 1960s. At some point they seemed to have merged with another company, Scott Appliances, and also operated locations under the Santa Stores name. By the 1980s the company had expanded to Jacksonville, FL. and was doing well. In 1985 Tandy purchased a 24 store company to help them enter the name-brand market. At the time Tandy’s largest retail outlet was RadioShack which mostly sold Tandy or RadioShack branded products. McDuff was intended to help compete with national discounters like Highland Superstores and Federated which carried name brand appliances and electronics. McDuff stores were a bit smaller than their competitors at the time, but they made up for this by positioning multiple stores throughout a city. By 1986 Tandy was in the early stages of expanding to areas like San Antonio, San Jose, CA and of course Houston.

Around the same time as the McDuff purchase, Tandy would also buy a chain of mall-based retail outlets named Video Concepts. These stores were owned by Eckerd and had been modeled after RadioShack. Tandy saw this as an opportunity to easily expand their McDuff footprint by converting some Video Concepts into McDuff locations which did not carry appliances and larger electronics.

Customers and staff watch TV at McDuff Electronics in Fort Worth when Congressman Jim Wright delivers his resignation speech, 06/01/1989 Photography by: Bruce Maxwell from UTA Libraries. CC/4.0

Houston History
In the summer of 1986 Tandy made the first moves to expand McDuff into Houston. They began searching for an operations manager for a new warehouse. By early November the first signs of the new brand hit town as Video Concepts locations in Houston area malls were converted to McDuff. Shortly after the conversions six new McDuff Supercenters opened outside of malls. These stores would carry a full line of electronics, and appliances. Four more supercenters would open by the end of November brining the Houston area locations to 10. Houston’s McDuff stores were 10,000 Square Feet (about the size of a Dollar Tree) which was only about 1/3rd of the size of the competitors.


A commercial from shortly after the first stores opened in Houston.

 

Tandy had grand plans for quick expansion of McDuff and in Houston that included a total of 20 stores throughout the area. Further expansion was quick but not immediate, and by the end of 1989 a total of five new stores had opened, bringing the Houston area total up to 15, plus a store in Bryan/College Station that was included on Houston advertisements. Late 1991 would see the final McDuff open in Houston, from this point forward the store count would only begin to shrink. McDuff was starting to feel the pressure of the ever expanding Circuit City and Best Buy whose store count was growing quickly. By 1993 three McDuff Supercenter locations were closed, and it seems that they were sublet by Tandy to other stores. In January 1995 Tandy announced their plans to close all McDuff locations in Houston, along with most mall-based locations and all remaining Video Connections stores.

This blow was a large hit to the remaining McDuff store counts throughout the Southern United States, but it was not a complete shock for Houstonians. Tandy had been putting much more effort into their Computer City chain to keep up with the ever-developing home computing industry. Tandy was also in the process of ramping up Incredible Universe which in stark contrast to McDuff were huge stores combining every facet of Tandy’s different portfolio into stores similar in size with Wal-Mart Supercenters. Although Tandy was very secretive about it at the time, the closings were likely related to the upcoming Houston Incredible Universe location. With a brief lifespan of only about 8 years in Houston, McDuff would only last one more year before shutting down all locations in the end of 1996. Some locations would go on to be used as other Tandy stores like Computer City, and a Radio Shack Clearance outlet.

Location List

Store No
Address
Notes
#29019223 Stella Link Rd Houston, TX 77025Now La Michoacana
#2902FM 146 at Palmer HighwayBay Center in Texas City, Unable to find exact address
#290320210 US-59, Humble, TX 77338Across from Deerbrook Mall
#29047519 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77063Westhill Village at Hillcroft, Seems to have been Office Depot
#290590 Farm to Market 1960 Rd WHouston, TX 77090Original ad has this as 1860! Cypress Station/Randalls Center, Now Dollar Tree
#290611105 Fondren Rd Houston, TX 77096Originally ComputerCraft location
#29073800 N Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77018Warehouse Store near Distribution Center
#290813302 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77077Located in The Commons at Eldrige, Currently vacant
#290910900 FM 1960 W Houston, TX 77070Now Cici's Pizza
#29108460 Gulf Fwy Houston, TX 77061Now Skecher's Warehouse Outlet
#29113334 Spencer Hwy Pasadena, TX 77504Now Family Dollar?
#29126805 Southwest Fwy Houston, TX 77074Stereomax
#291320601 Gulf Fwy Webster, TX 77598Commons at Willowbrook later Computer City
#2914640 Memorial City MallSuper Center store including appliances
#291511500 East Fwy Houston, TX 77029Now Discount Tire Co
#29177630 FM 1960 W Houston, TXWillowbrook Commons later Computer City, Car Stereo Installation
#291827730 Tomball Parkway #32 Tomball, TX 77375Now King Dollar
#1313Westwood Mall #1254Mall location, converted from Video Concepts. Did not sell appliances.
#1310San Jacinto MallMall location, converted from Video Concepts. Did not sell appliances.
#1324Town & Country Mall #H-261Mall location, converted from Video Concepts. Did not sell appliances.
#1325Pasadena Town Square #260Mall location, converted from Video Concepts. Did not sell appliances.
#1301Galleria #3680Mall location, converted from Video Concepts. Did not sell appliances.
#1302Baybrook MallMall location, converted from Video Concepts. Did not sell appliances.
#1328Deerbrook MallMall location, converted from Video Concepts. Did not sell appliances.
#1317Willowbrook MallMall location, converted from Video Concepts. Did not sell appliances.
#1327Sharpstown Mall #732Mall location, converted from Video Concepts. Did not sell appliances.
#1303Greenspoint Mall #469Mall location, converted from Video Concepts. Did not sell appliances.
#1319Victoria Mall #141Mall location, converted from Video Concepts. Did not sell appliances.

5 comments

  1. I was aware of McDuff and have faint recollections of them at Baybrook and Pasadena Town Square – interesting article, thanks!

  2. I distinctly remember my mom taking me to the store on Shepherd and buying a Sylvania Console TV for our living room. But I would have never remembered the name of the store until just this post. I had to have been 11 or 12 years old, so 1985 or 1986.

  3. Awesome, I was hoping you’d cover McDuff at some point. We shopped at McDuff more than a few times when they were around in Houston and I enjoyed shopping there. I had fond memories of the chain, but I was starting to think that I was the only one who remembered them because there’s hardly any information about them online!

    As one can gather from the article, McDuff stores were a bit inconsistent in size and experience. That probably hurt them, but they did have a lot of locations here in Houston. The location at The Commons across from Willowbrook Mall is the store I remember the most and it was probably the nicest of the McDuffs that I went to. I would say the store was a bit more like a plug style Circuit City than a Best Buy of the time. McDuff wasn’t as fancy as a plug style Circuit City and their marketing wasn’t as slick so that’s probably why Circuit City helped put McDuff out of business. Best Buy’s low prices and supermarket shopping experience where everything was/is done in a self-serve fashion crushed McDuff and ultimately Circuit City as well.

    I also remember Highland Superstores and Federated Group. Pacific Stereo was also another nice electronics store chain. Highland most certainly sold appliances, but I think Federated only sold electronics. I could be wrong about that, it’s been a long time since these stores have been around! Federated probably did sell microwave ovens as microwaves were expensive things that people were buying for the first time often in the 1980s. Highland and Federated had high pressure sales tactics. McDuff and those who survived into the 2000s had a more relaxed experience, but Circuit City most certainly had commissioned salesmen for many years. Highland and Federated had memorable commercials so that’s probably why people remember them more than McDuff.

    The 10900 FM 1960 W McDuff location is another one I’m quite familiar with. After that store closed, Tandy turned it into a Radio Shack clearance store (there was a real Radio Shack in the same shopping center just down from the Pancho’s Mexican Buffet, Color Tile, Hancock Fabric, and a couple other smaller stores). The clearance store didn’t last for too long as Tandy then turned the store into a short-lived Computer City Express location. It was, as you can guess, a downsized Computer City store. When the McDuff location at the Willowbrook Commons turned into a normal Computer City, the Computer City Express location closed and then I don’t think it had any more history with Tandy. The regular Radio Shack at that shopping center persisted and I think it ended up moving to to the Target/Home Depot shopping center on FM 1960 & N. Eldridge in around 2006.

    Interestingly enough, there is a Tandy Leather store in current times located across FM 1960 in the old Kmart and Kroger/current Hobby Lobby and Big Lots shopping center! Although Tandy did dump their leather store division at some point when their Radio Shack division was really heating up, Tandy did start out in the leather business and that retailer still survives while Radio Shack is, at least in the US, resigned to being an online and franchise store.

    The MallWalkers Blog has some great photos of a VideoConcepts store at the Ft. Worth Ridgmar Mall: http://mallwalkers.net/videoconcepts

    Anyway, thanks for covering McDuff. Everyone wants to talk about Incredible Universe, and I was at the Houston Incredible Universe grand opening so I know that it was really something, but Tandy’s other non-Radio Shack electronics stores that had locations in Houston including the Radio Shack Computer Centers, McDuff, VideoConcepts, and Computer City deserve some coverage as well.

    1. Howdy!

      Thank you for your comment! People taking time to read through my articles and leave feedback is really truly what keeps me doing this. I’ll be honest in saying that I have only foggy memories of McDuff Electronics at best, and only remember Highland and Federated from hearing about them. You were correct by the way, no appliances at Federated and page will be updated as such. I will eventually get to some of these other chains like ComputerCity because honestly I have more memories of visiting there than Incredible Universe.

      Also thanks for the VideoConcepts link, I hadn’t seen those photos before! There are a couple of Tandy Leather locations around the state and a few in Houston. I think I may cover them one day as a blog post. Glad you enjoyed this!

      1. A post about Computer City in the future would be awesome. If you’re looking for more information about them, or about Incredible Universe, I suggest checking out the Radio Shack Catalogs website. They have a scanned archive of just about every Radio Shack catalog ever published. That itself isn’t very helpful in learning about Computer City, but the same website also has some other historical publications relating to Tandy. Of most interest are the archived and scanned copies they have of Tandy annual reports. The ones from 1994 to about 1998 ought to have some good information about Computer City/Incredible Universe’s business plans. They have some nice photos from inside the stores as well in order to get some idea of what they looked like. I know I shopped frequently at the Greenspoint location located in The Commons shopping center across I-45 from the mall before the Computer City Express and eventually the Computer City Supercenter opened on FM 1960 W.

        On the topic of that The Commons powercenter located across from Greenspoint that was converted into a data center, that might be an interesting topic to explore. That place went from being the place to be to becoming desolate in just a period of a few years. It didn’t help that it was anchored by a bunch of retailers that were more or less gone by 2000. Computer City, Phar-Mor, Media Play, Children’s Palace, SportsTown USA (I think), and a few others if I remember correctly. That would have been the equivalent of having a shopping center anchored by Linens N Things, CompUSA, Circuit City, and Borders in the year 2008, lol.

        Anyway, back to the Tandy annual reports, it’s a shame they don’t have the 1986-1993 annual reports because the bulk of information about McDuff would have been in those. Still, there is some interesting information about McDuff and VideoConcepts on page 12 (according to the flipbook view, it’s actually page 11 in the report) of the 1985 annual report. You might find that to be interesting: https://www.radioshackcatalogs.com/annual_reports.htm

        On the topic of electronics store, I’ll go ahead and throw it out there that another electronics store of prominence in Houston in the 1980s-1990s was Conn’s. We now know of Conn’s today as mostly being an appliance and furniture store for those needing credit, but back in the day, they sold appliances and higher end electronics in showrooms that had their share of neon lighting! I suppose that as Best Buy and others took away the electronics market, they shifted their focus into what it is today. I can’t blame them, they seem to be doing well in their current form. As you may recall, some larger furniture stores like Fingers also sold electronics in the 1980s and prior.

        Thanks again for covering this topic. I see from all the replies today that there is interest in this topic!

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