I have found my mothership. [Click here for photo gallery]
A couple months ago, I was driving through Indianapolis and I spotted something that left my mouth hanging open and nearly caused me to veer into the wrong lane on I-69. There was a new retail store that opened in Fishers, just north of Indy. I'm not much of a shopper (much to the chagrin of my wife) and I usually do NOT get very excited by new retail stores, but this one was different. This was Fry's Electronics.
For technophiles and electronic tinkerers, Fry's holds something of a mythical status, especially for someone like me who has never lived in California and so has never had Fry's as a regular shopping experience. I have listened with an envious heart as friends who have visited and lived in Northern California (where Fry's first opened in Sunnyvale in 1985) have talked about the endless rows of NICs, vats of hard drive jumpers and case screws, and unlimited supplies of rare PC and electronics components that can always be found at Fry's.
Thus, on my most recent trip through Indianapolis, I finally made a pilgrimage to the Fry's in Fishers, the first one in Indiana and only the second one in the Midwest (the other one is in Chicago area). Despite my boundless juvenile anticipation, I was still amazed when I actually stepped inside.
The sheer square footage of the store was unbelievable. It was bigger than Sam's Club and easily as big as a Super Wal-Mart, Super K-Mart, or Meijer (for those in the Midwest). The computer components section alone -- for custom PC builders -- was as big as the grocery section in a Super Wal-Mart. I made a beeline for the computer components first. I was awestruck when I saw a huge section of a wall filled with computer motherboards. And right next to them was a very cool display of case fans. One entire grocery store-like aisle was filled with different computer cases, although with all those cases to choose from I didn't see any of the real WOW cases that you can find online and I didn't find a slimline media center case, which I've been looking for. But right next to the cases I found plenty of whisperingly-quiet power supplies and CPU fans to keep me occupied.
After poking around the sections for computer parts and electronics kits, I made my way through consumer electronics where the section for TVs was over twice as big as the TV display at Best Buy and there was a larger collection of Xbox games than I have ever seen in one place. On my way to consumer electronics I also saw something that made be stop and chuckle. There was a cafe right in the middle of the store. That meant technogeeks like me didn't even have to leave for sustenance in the middle of a Fry's visit. I could just stop and get a meal and then go back to my geek-ish pursuits. Fortunately, my wife and son were with me on this trip, so I didn't get too endlessly absorbed.
My final jaw-dropping experience of the day came when I went to check out. It wasn't very crowded on the day that I was there but there was still a place for a long line and when I came to the end of that row there was a person waiting who said, "Hi there. You can pay at check out 14." Like a preschooler crossing the road by himself, I looked sheepishly to one side and then the other and saw rows of checkout lanes extending endlessly on both sides. Then, after I went to station 14, paid, and then walked toward the exit with my Fry's bag in hand, I realized that those weren't even the only checkout stations, but that an equal number of them curled around and went all the way up the other side behind them. At that moment, I knew with a certainty that I was not alone in the universe. And I'm guessing that a lot of other technogeeks felt the same way when they came through Fry's Electronics for the first time.
If you want to see what I saw, I've put together a gallery of photos from my Fry's pilgrimage.
Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.