Shop Learn
Al Lasher’s closes, mom and pop electronics — Parallax Forums

Al Lasher’s closes, mom and pop electronics

The commercial opposite of Fry’s, also going out of business, Al Lasher’s in Berkeley was a small proprietorship, one location. It was founded in 1960 and staffed by Al himself, and later by son, Bob, And daughter, Ellen, and many steady employees through the years. Servicing a wide variety of customers from the university, the repair trade, hobbyists from ham radio and onward to every enthusiasm du jour, and definitely cool neon for Burning Man.

I was in there often to pick up parts just in time. An amazing inventory, some of it quite long in tooth. They got caught short by the internet and by the impossible inventory demands and price pressure of modern electronics.

The biggest blow however was the protracted illness and death last year of Ellen. What a fine person she was. At the heart of the business she was. I personally miss her greatly. And the establishment, among the last of the local mom and pop electronics operations left.


  • That's too bad, I wish I had visited. Good article on them here:

    We still have San Mateo Electronics near me, who finally updated their website:

  • Ken GraceyKen Gracey Posts: 7,274
    edited 2021-03-01 03:39

    The story identified by @"Jeff Haas" is really special in so many ways. I enjoyed reading about how the family worked together, how Bob knew where everything was and how Ellen tied it all together as she leaned over the desk to talk with a customer. Chatting with Chip today we were discussing how the passage of time can leave a business behind, and how we don't ever want that to happen to Parallax. But we're also a small company and even though we're in our early 50s, nobody knows when their time is up and how that can change a business. Many of our team have been with us since the mid/late 90s (Jeff, Andy, Chantal, Stephanie, Jim) and we have a great responsibility to their future, just like we feel towards our customers. But still, at some point in the future relevancy can become reality. . . .maybe all experiences with products, design, education, and robotics can be achieved virtually, or "installed" in a user's mind when they need to tap those skills.

    In Sacramento, HSC Electronics closed up before the pandemic took hold. They were our equivalent electronic junk shop and we even found good employees working behind the counter(!) to work at Parallax.

    I think electronic supply shops will be like printed music shops. You can buy printed sheet music from one place in NYC, Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles. There's not enough demand to support them except in high-density, live entertainment centers. At each of these shops, there's usually an older person who is hanging on after 35-40 years. If you go there year after year, they may still write the receipts by hand and be a bit slower to move around. For electronics, we've got a few hotspots where these stores may survive: San Jose, Los Angeles, NYC, but not many others.

    Ken Gracey

  • Right now, outside of Micro Center, we've got Tinkersphere. Currently the physical store is taking a time out, while this pandemic runs down. They are doing a legendary business selling via their website. Sadly the one almost capable surplus anything electronic shop closed in the city many years before the Pandemic came. I suspect I know what did cause that shop to close up.

  • Tracy AllenTracy Allen Posts: 6,561
    edited 2021-03-02 02:42

    Thanks for that link @Jeff Haas. The photos in that article and in the further links at the bottom of the page really do give a sense of what it was like. Aisles and nooks and weird nooks full of stuff, both in the public section and behind the counter and in the far back. Need some odd cable? Bob or Ellen might take you back through the swinging gate to look over their eclectic assortment, likely to find something that would work. Need to test a vacuum tube? They had one of the last of its ilk, still working, sort of, not too well at the end; too many flakey contacts. There was one dusty rack that still had old Motorola HEP series ICs, like RTL logic chips. Yet they also kept up with recent developments, with JameCo and Sparkfun and several other hobbiest lines. Lots of nice tools. Never the Stamp or Parallax products unfortunately.

    Berkeley used to have plenty of electronics stores. There was surplus at Electronics Etc., as well as a couple of Radio Shacks and even for a while a Dick Smith's, a venture from the folks down under. But now none of those. I think the nearest is probably Electronics Plus in San Rafael. I know that I shopped brick and mortar less and less through the years. It was SMT technology and increasing specialization. No small retail outlet could ever handle that, neither for the variety nor for the knowhow. It was the Digikey's, Mouser's and so on that made the grade.

  • Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi) Posts: 22,981
    edited 2021-03-02 05:39

    I think electronic supply shops will be like printed music shops.

    Wow, that sure conjured up a memory from my childhood. Back then, we went to the Kresge five-and-dime to buy sheet music and lesson books. They even had a piano player on hand to demo a piece before you bought it. As a courtesy, I never asked to play anything from Hanon. :smile:


  • JonnyMacJonnyMac Posts: 7,583

    Tanner Electronics -- a family owned business in Dallas -- closed recently, too. When I lived in Dallas I spent a lot of time there. When I started traveling to TX again (after 10 years away) it was on of the first places I visited, and was greeted like an old family friend. I hope that All Electronics here in LA is able to hold on, but given our governor is more interested in violating his own restrictions so he can attend parties with his celebrity friends, I don't hold out a lot of hope.

  • We used to have Capital Electronics here in Phoenix, but they have been gone a while. Saved a ton of money in savef downtime and parts cost by them having what I needed same day for component level repairs.

  • RS_JimRS_Jim Posts: 1,460

    I too miss Capital Electronics!

Sign In or Register to comment.