Charles D. Tandy, the son of David L. Tandy and Carmen
(McLain), was born in Brownsville, Texas, on May 15, 1918.
In 1919, when Tandy
was a year old, his father, Dave L. Tandy (1889-1966) and a
friend, Norton Hinckley, both ambitious young fellows, decided
to pool their resources and go into business together. Their
venture, which the two gentlemen named the Hinckley-Tandy
Leather Company (now
Tandy Leather Factory), supplied leather to shoe repair
shops and later to hospitals, therapists, army posts, schools,
and prisons and sold leather shoe parts (soles, heels and
shoelaces) to shoe repair shops in the Fort Worth, TX area.
While Charles was
growing up, the Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company grew only modestly. Although the
company survived the Great Depression, it was nearly crippled
when World War II began in 1941. Shoes were rationed – two pairs
per adult per year – and leather for civilian use virtually
serving in the Navy during the war, observed how leathercraft
was used as a therapeutic tool for patients in military
hospitals and by servicemen in recreation and rehabilitation
centers. He told his father that leathercraft was the way to
steer the company during the war years – and to prepare for what
he believed would be a healthy, new, post-war hobby market.
Tandy Leather Company Formed
graduated from Texas Christian University in 1940 (where he
received an LLD degree in 1971), attended Harvard Business
School from 1940 to 1941, and served in the United States Navy
from 1941 to 1947 as an officer in the Supply Corps.
In 1947, after World
War II Tandy, a driven and demanding man with big dreams,
returned to Forth Worth and joined his father's business. The
Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company was a five-store and mail-order
catalog operation with about $750,000 in annual sales. Pretty
good for those times but not good enough for Charles. He began with a
direct-mail campaign based on a small catalog of do-it-yourself leathercraft and kits that diversified and expanded the original
Charles firmly believed in the high gross-profit margins of the
leathercraft business and the growth possibilities of the
leisure-time hobby market. His views clashed with those of the
family's partner, Norton Hinckley. The disagreement ended in a
split in 1950 when Charles bought out Hinkley. Charles and his father formed Tandy Leather
Company, while Hinckley kept the shoe business.
By 1954, Charles'
enthusiasm for providing the leather parts and tools to make
wallets and other items had grown the Tandy Leather Company to
67 stores in 36 states and Hawaii, with sales of $8 million.
Although successful, the company had reached a point where
coping with estate and management problems inherent in a
privately held family business dictated selling the enterprise
to gain a listing on a major stock exchange to attract investors
and finance expansion.
In 1955, Tandy
Leather Company was sold to American Hide and Leather of Boston,
a respected New England firm, which changed its name to General
American Industries after the merger. Following a string of
unsuccessful acquisitions, the firm soon found itself in
financial trouble. Profits from the Tandy organization were used
to cover losses of the parent company, instead of going toward
expansion of the leathercraft business as Charles had originally
After a period
of prosperity, however, General American Industries faced losses and a
declining leather industry. In response, by 1960 Tandy sold off
three profitless divisions, moved his headquarters from Fort
Worth to New York, consolidated his remaining enterprise, and
incorporated as the Tandy Corporation.
Radio Shack Purchased by Tandy
In 1961, he opened the
first in a chain of hobby supermarkets at Fort Worth and
embarked on a new policy of broad diversification. Tandy
subsequently acquired Pier I Imports, which capitalized on
growing interest in the Far East in the 1970s, Dillard's
Department Stores, Wolfe Nursery Stores, Color Tile, Leonard Brothers, Mitchell's stores, Alcon Labs, Robintech, the
Stafford-Lowdon printing company, and in 1963 a chain of nine
Boston-based retail stores known as Radio Shack.
Radio Shack flourished, and by 1963
annual sales of the growing enterprise reached $20 million.
Tandy's company came to be known for a culture characterized by
the slogan, "It takes two to Tandy," and succeeded in part by
offering its managers a percentage of store profits. The company
moved into manufacture through its Tex Tan division, which
produced leather apparel, accessories, boots, moccasins, men's
furnishings, and riding saddles sold through 6,000 department
and men's wear stores, while the Tandy Leather Company sold
handicraft supplies, kits, and related merchandise.
In the 1970s Tandy experienced several setbacks. In 1973, after
acquiring a string of Allied Radio Stores to supplement its
Radio Shack outlets, the United States Justice Department,
believing it then enjoyed an unfair monopoly in the consumer
electronics business, forced the company to divest itself. In
1975 Tandy spun off its Tandycrafts and Tandy Brands divisions,
and in 1976 Tandy admitted having made improper payments to
expedite business operations and assumed responsibility for back
By the time of Charles Tandy's death in 1978, Tandy
Corporation was a billion-dollar multinational corporation with
20,000 employees and 7,000 Radio Shack outlets. Corporate
headquarters for the multinational manufacturer and retailer of
diversified handicraft supplies and electronics were located in
downtown Fort Worth at the newly-constructed Tandy Center.
served as company vice president from 1947 to 1955, president
from 1955 to 1964, and chairman of the board and chief executive
officer from 1964 until his death. After his first wife, Gwen
Purdy (Johnston), died in 1966, Tandy married Anne Burnett Windfohr, granddaughter of pioneer
Wichita County rancher Samuel Burk Burnett, in 1969. Tandy
served as a director of the Fort Worth National Bank and was a
founder of the North Texas Commission, which promoted the
eleven-county metroplex area. Described as "the personification
of capitalism," he was noted for supporting a constitutional
amendment limiting federal expenditures to 20 percent of the
nation's gross national product. He died on November 4, 1978,
and was buried in the family mausoleum at Greenwood Cemetery in
Fort Worth. Tandy left an estate valued at over $28.4 million,
mostly in common stock, to his wife and the Tandy Foundation,
established by her for "the benefit of others, particularly
those who live in Fort Worth." A statue of the business leader
stood north of the Tarrant County courthouse in Fort Worth.
In 2009, the statue was moved to the Neeley School of Business,
Texas State University, Forth Worth, TX.
more photos of Charles Tandy and his life.
■ Diana J. Kleiner, "TANDY, CHARLES DAVID," Handbook of Texas
accessed January 11, 2011.