Radio Shack’s attempted comeback is beginning in Baraboo.

On July 10 a downtown store formerly known as Gadget Central became a Radio Shack franchise, the national chain’s first new U.S. store since it filed for bankruptcy.

The Radio Shack sign went up Tuesday at the corner of Ash and Third streets, where owner P.J. Kruschel and his staff are stocking the shelves with merchandise. The store sells televisions, flashlights and drones, as well as refurbished phones and laptops.

“Inventory is pouring in,” Kruschel said. “We’re going to have all the parts and pieces, all the fun toys.”

Baraboo has been without a Radio Shack outlet since Vodak TV Sales and Service closed in January. The downtown institution had served the community for nearly 63 years.

Radio Shack’s corporate woes played a role in owner Kevin Vodak’s decision to close. Years of losses prompted the company to file for bankruptcy in 2015, closing most its corporate stores. Many independently owned stores closed, too.

The company emerged from bankruptcy as a privately owned company, slashing operating expenses by 23 percent and seeing gross profits rise 8 percent. Still, financial struggles – including slow phone sales by partner Sprint—prompted Radio Shack to opt in March for Chapter 11 protection.

Kruschel has owned the Radio Shack store in Lake Delton for a decade. When Vodak’s store closed, Kruschel sought the dealer contract. Once the bankruptcy process wrapped up, Kruschel got the go-ahead to turn Gadget Central into a Radio Shack franchise, the first in the company’s post-bankruptcy era.

“They’re ready to grow again,” Kruschel said. “There’s a plan to move forward.”

Mayor Mike Palm hailed the news, and not just because Kruschel is his son-in-law. “It’s really nice to see Baraboo is first in the nation,” Palm said. “Radio Shack is a great fit for the community.”

Kruschel said competitive prices will allow his store to sit at the table with big-box and online competitors, and service will be his trump card. The store offers cell phone and computer repair.

“Radio Shack will work in almost any small town,” he said. “People want service.”

People who want the latest Kindle Fire or a build-it-yourself drone or an iPhone will find those, too, at prices comparable to Best Buy and amazon.com. Plus, Radio Shack offers service after the sale.

Kruschel said he believes the store fits in nicely in downtown Baraboo, which is full of thriving, locally owned stores that offer expertise as well as merchandise. “It’s something special,” he said. “We look forward to serving people.”

Follow Ben Bromley on Twitter @ben_bromley

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