This is my fiftieth Fun with Maps post! In honor of this occasion I’ve got Bryan-made and Bryan-centric maps for you, one of which is currently hanging on a wall in my house.
I worked at Radio Shack for three years between 2009 and 2012. It was equal parts excruciating and awesome. I often had to deal with frustrating customers and corporate’s business plan was horrendous (obviously). There was micro-management, awful advertising campaigns (and some okay ones), constant conference calls, shifting sales foci, warranties not worth selling (but all too important to corporate), and a rapidly declining reputation in the community. I tried to fix as many of the problems as I could but was fairly powerless as a manager of one location. My store, in Minnetonka, Minnesota, was the slowest in our District of 18 and one of the least productive in the Region of roughly 200. That being said, I kept my small domain spick, span, and running efficiently. I was often told by superiors that my location was the cleanest in the Region! Of course it almost had to be considering how few customers came through. It also didn’t hurt how organized and OCD I am. The customers that did come by were prone to snobby attitudes (given the area) and returned things far too often. I once had someone buy a $500 home security camera system on a trip to visit his mother in Ohio and drove it back all the way to my store to return it! I, of course, had no choice in the matter, and my store (again, the slowest one) took a sales hit that tanked my week. People are the worst. The aforementioned awesome half of my job was being in charge of my own staff, making store-level decisions, using my great sales skills, setting my own schedule, and watching television at work (we sold Dish Network and had a DVR at our disposal).
Map 99A is a map I created back in 2012 showing the locations of the 18 stores in my district, District 891. Even back then, well before starting this blog series, I occasionally made my own maps. Sometime in early 2012, Radio Shacks all over the country were rearranged as part of a larger corporate restructuring. I was, and still am, fascinated by how companies group their locations (both sales and support facilities). Only two stores in the South Metro were removed from our district but three up North and two in Iowa were added. We joked at the time that our District Manager was going to need a helicopter for his newly spread out territory. My store was number 6142. Take a look!
My store was slow but I wasn’t the only one. Why do you think Radio Shack declared bankruptcy? Store 9942 was run by a guy named Nathan. We shared the bottom of the totem pole with 9947 and 9925. Those two were the first to go when stores started closing. 6168 wasn’t that slow but their rent was fairly high causing them to close as well. Many of the managers got to spend a couple days in Albert Lea packing up all the merchandise and shipping it to the other stores. That was a fun trip. We took the manager, Brock, to a casino in Iowa for his 21st birthday (they have real roulette there and I love it). He was transferred to 9946 and was fairly successful there.
I worked at Store 6094 for several months before being promoted. It was significantly busier than my eventual location. The manager, Nate, was best man in my wedding. We went on many trips during our time with Radio Shack including inventories, store cleanings, and store closings. We had to clean and inventory 9925 once. It was a disaster of a store with awful employees and a useless manager. 6166 was the same way but was one of the most profitable stores in the Region. Nate and I, along with two other managers named Chris (6131) and Patrick (6028) spent a very long night trying to reconcile their poorly maintained inventory and it is impossible to get a pizza in Worthington, MN after 9pm. The longest trip we made was to visit Sioux City, Iowa. Nate and I did a full reboot cleaning of 6036 and a partial one of 6064 at the request of our DM after they joined 891. The manager of 6036 had recently quit and the replacement had very little training or experience. That was a hard project but we turned the location around physically at a minimum. We left them with a massive to-do list as well. Now that Radio Shack has all but gone out of business, and been only partly saved by a buy-out by Sprint, all of these stores are closed except for one; 6036.
Stores 6094 and 6142 weren’t my first Radio Shack locations. I actually started out at Store 6181 in West St. Paul, Minnesota. I was living in St. Paul attending the University of Minnesota (which is in Minneapolis) and Nate set me up with an interview with the District Manager of District 820. He was kind of a sociopath but I did get the job. He even tried to promote me but I was focusing on school at the time. It was difficult enough to work 40 hours a week while taking a full schedule of classes. Store 6181 is still open, by the way, one of only half a dozen in the Twin Cities proper these days. Beth and I moved back to the West Metro after I graduated and I transferred to Nate’s store in 891. The corporate restructuring that rearranged the stores in the Upper Midwest Region (Region #25) also caused me to look into how all the Districts in the Region were shaped geographically. Refer to Map 99B below.
There weren’t a lot of stores in the Dakotas so they formed the largest District geographically. Northern Minnesota was also fairly devoid of stores so it looks larger as well. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Districts 562 and 559 were tiny geographically consisting of just Milwaukee and the area between Milwaukee and Chicago. They were much higher in sales volume despite being very compact. Chicago and Northern Illinois were another region themselves. If they were anything like Minnesota there were stores every 5-10 miles, just one of the many reasons the company went under. We faced competition not just from Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and the Wireless Carrier Stores, but from each other.
Living in the Twin Cities, that is the part of the region I find the most interesting. Each of the four districts in Minnesota got a piece of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Our Regional Office was based in Eagan, a Southeastern suburb, so it acted as a hub for the District Managers in the State. 891 had five West Metro stores before the district changes and three after. 855 had several stores in Minneapolis including one in the Mall of America, the ones downtown, and the two stolen from 891 (in addition to Southeastern Minnesota). District 962 covered the Northern suburbs of Minneapolis while 820 consisted of St. Paul and Western/Central Wisconsin.
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Map 100 is hanging on the wall in our second bedroom. It’s a pin map of our trips in the United States (and Canada). I started it in 2012 using a map and cork bulletin board I purchased online. I glued the map to the corkboard with spray adhesive and placed heavy objects on top. I underestimated the corkboard’s ability to soak up the adhesive and the map peeled up from the board in many places. Additional glue was required and there are still bubbles, especially on the two coasts. If I had to start over (which would probably cause me tears) I would use rubber cement and lay the map flat for a week or two first instead of just one night.
The routes are a little hard to see in this picture so I’ve provided close-ups below. I marked each road trip route painstakingly with small colored pins and thread. Our first two-week trip to Houston and San Francisco in 2011 is red. The 2012 East Coast trip (also fourteen days) is blue. The quick six-day trip to Houston that required driving 22 hours straight each way is white. Yellow marks the path to Winnipeg for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Maeby’s first road trip with us to Yellowstone, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon, and Arches National Park is green. I don’t have any more pin colors to choose from going forward but I’ll use different colors of thread to differentiate trips. The large purple pushpin on Minneapolis is to mark our home base. If we ever move across the country I will use another large pin to mark that new home base.
I wanted to do something special for our airplane trips too. I found these awesome little airplane pushpins on Amazon and instantly elevated the classiness of my map board! It’s really complicated to remove a pin already connected with thread but anytime we fly to a city we’ve never landed in before, I switch that city’s pin to an airplane. I only count airports in destination cities, however. Only Houston got a new pin when we flew home through Chicago in 2014. Just like the road trips, each trip with air travel gets its own color of thread. It can be difficult to get a straight line between cities with out road routes in the way.
The bottom inch of the corkboard is map-free so I use that area to house my collection of souvenir lapel pins. I know what you’re thinking! Can this guy get any cooler?! No, no I can’t. The pin I bought in Idaho says “Spud Wars” and has two potatoes dressed like Star Wars characters. It was the best they had to offer at that particular gas station but I typically prefer more straight forward options. I like to buy one for each state we visit as well as any National Parks or large attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge. When I run out of room on the bottom I will expand to the oceans on the map.
I’ve also got a plan to include our international travels like our Honeymoon to London and Paris by adding a second World map. I have the materials ready to go but I will need a place to hang it. The only wall I could get permission to use for the main map was in our second bedroom (the non-master, non-nursery bedroom). Beth is putting up with my hobby thus far but I’ve yet to set up my full map-cave (my preferred version of the now cliché man-cave). It’s a work in progress.
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Well, that’s it. My fiftieth post! It has been a lot of fun bringing you excellent maps (hence the name). Not all the maps contain fun topics, such as income inequality or the lack of equal rights for the LGBT community, but I do my best to inform and entertain (occasionally all at the same time). I make some of the maps myself (where the most fun is had) and try to provide my take on any maps I share from other sources. I appreciate you, the readers, more than you know. It’s nice to see there are more map-enthusiasts out there and I love hearing from you. Suggestions, comments, and constructive criticism are always welcome.
Thanks for reading!