End of an Era: Universal Radio is closing shop

Universal Radio’s showroom at their previous Reynoldsburg location

While I’m very happy for my friends Fred and Barbara Osterman as they head into a well-deserved retirement, I’m very sad that Universal Radio will be closing.

I’ve been a Universal Radio customer since before I was a licensed ham radio operator. They have been–and are to this day–the one ham radio radio retailer that still specialized in shortwave radio receivers.

Fred and Barbara have generously supported numerous radio clubs, organizations, and non-profit organizations throughout the years and are simply some of the nicest people you could ever meet.

Fred and Barbara shared the following message with their customers:


Dear Friends Of Universal Radio,

Time waits for no one, and that includes Barbara and myself. We have decided to retire and our current location in Worthington
will close on November 30, 2020. Even though the store is closing we will fulfill all existing customer orders and have a large amount of inventory to close-out. The Universal Radio website will be maintained for the foreseeable future to sell this remaining stock, publications and some select products. Unfortunately the lack of a store front showroom will preclude us from carrying some manufacturers’ products.

I am very fortunate to have been in the radio business for over 50 years, 13 at Radio Shack and 37 at Universal Radio. We have met many wonderful people along the journey who have supported me personally as well as Universal Radio. It has been a privilege to have a continuous career in the fascinating field of radio since 1969.

Please accept our sincere “Thank You” for your support of Universal Radio
for these many years, and for the months to come.

Our new address for correspondence and mail order is below.
This is not a store front.

Universal Radio Inc.
752 N. State St. Unit 222
Westerville, OH 43082

Phone: 614 866-4267

Thank you.

73,

Fred Osterman N8EKU
Barbara Osterman KC8VWI


Thank you, Fred and Barbara, and here’s wishing you a very happy retirement!

Spread the radio love

64 thoughts on “End of an Era: Universal Radio is closing shop

  1. Steve

    Bought my Sony ICF-SW7600GR from Universal Radio in August 7, 2002. I still have the receipt and the radio. Best wishes in your retirement.

    Reply
  2. Ti

    They had my wishlist of radios. Finally after years of looking at print and website adverts, work brought me to Reynoldsburg. I definitely visited every time I was in Columbus.

    Reply
  3. James A Spruyt

    Is there a way to keep the HF transceiver section online after closure? The discontinued HF section is a time machine of beautiful photos and the listing of the available accessories is great if recreating a vintage station.

    Reply
  4. Jack K.

    I have purchased a few radios from Universal over the years, but my favorite story is a call I made to inquire about a repair. A few years back, my Grundig YB-550 encountered some static electricity (via my fingers) and went dead. At that time, it was my primary travel companion. There was someone in Las Vegas who repaired Grundig radios, but charged more than the price of the unit brand new.

    I’m not sure who I spoke with at Universal that day, but they told me that while they did not repair radios, they had a brand new YB-550 in stock. Feeling somewhat frustrated, I asked why I felt compelled to spend more fixing the radio I owned than buying a new one for less money. The salesman said he couldn’t answer that, but offered a story.

    He knew a violinist who traveled the world with a well-known orchestra and described their instrument, one they had played for years in many countries, as more than an instrument, but a companion. It had shared experiences, spent a lot of time performing together, etc. and maybe I was feeling something familiar. Yeah, exactly – someone who knew what this radio meant to me. OK – a Grundig portable (from Eton, no less) is not a Stradivarius, but the next day I sent it away to be repaired. I did purchase a backup that day, just in case! I still have it – gave away the backup I never used.

    Good people – good radio people. Not too many left. I’ll miss you guys.

    Reply
  5. Eddy

    Sorry to see you go, but all good things must end sometime.
    All the very best to you in your retirement Fred and Barbara, and all the staff and all of the cats too.

    Eddy Waters.

    Reply
  6. Mark

    Hi,

    A number of years ago I was exposed to the hobby and was able to master CW but did not take the test. Life moved on and I rediscovered the hobby and got my license and so did my son.

    My work has allowed me to travel for a number of years and I have always tried to schedule travel to allow me to visit clubs and stores when I was on the road. I never left the stores empty handed.

    Once i discovered Universal, I was impressed with their on line store and yes my credit card got a work out.

    Wishing Fred and Barb all the best for the future.

    Thanks for your support of the hobby.

    Reply
  7. willie

    sad, as i have been a customer for a long time… most recent purchase was a used Elad FDM Duo in pristine condition at half of retail – a real bargain… i will remember UR every time i use it!

    Reply
  8. LN

    Bought my first SW radio from Universal so many years ago for my DXing hobby that lead me into Ham Radio. Will surely miss this!

    73
    de KO4CGG

    Reply
  9. Fred Watson

    Sorry to hear of the closing but we all know that change is inevitable .Many years ago I took a James Millen prototype receiver down for Fred to see and photograph for his shortwave receiver book. Never thought much of it, just glad to help .Fast forward many years and one day I received a brand new hardbound copy free of charge just for contributing in the past. The one book no one gets to borrow and will be with me till I die. You will be missed but time marches on. Enjoy your retirement and be proud of the enjoyment you have given to others.

    Reply
  10. RICK ATWOOD K0HE

    I am so sad to hear that Universal Radio is closing, but so happy to hear that Fred and Barbara are retiring. This is bitter sweet news. What a huge loss this will be to the SWL/Ham nation. Grab their Receivers Past and Present hardback book while you can. I hope they keep their sold website up as this is a super reference as well as their DXING and Rig Reference sites. A wonderful and comprehensive piece of information WE WILL ALL MISS UNIVERSAL RADIO INDEED!

    Reply
  11. Rob K8RKD

    As both a customer and former employee, I will miss the store. Fred was a great friend to the hobby and the many and varied members and interests of amateur and SWL enthusiasts around the world. Most of what I know about radio has a connection somewhere to UR. Best wishes to Fred and Barbara in their retirement.

    Reply
  12. Donald Hosmer

    I have been dealing with Fred & Barb since I met them at an ANARC Convention in the early 80’s. They have been active in promoting the SWL (and amateur radio) hobbies all these years. I have bought many radios and gear from them over the years visiting 3 of their store locations. I was there last year for a new 24 hr clock. My last radio purchase was the CommRadio CR-1a a few years ago. They will be missed.

    Reply
  13. Robert Richmond

    I shop DXE and eBay more these days, but I have made a few purchases from Universal Radio over the years. Hate to see it go, but I understand wanting to retire, too.

    Suspected something was occurring when noticing several transceivers were no longer listed as “in stock” a few days ago. Even without the store, the site has lots of amazing information.

    Hope the best for the owners and staff as they move forward.

    Reply
  14. David Malick

    Sorry to see another Amateur radio / SWL store go. Was always nice to try a unit out before purchasing it. Bought an Icom R-75 from them about 5 years ago. I wish Fred and Barbara a well earned retirement.

    Reply
  15. Mike Thomas

    Hate to see them go but, all good things must pass.
    I remember purchasing my Sony 2010 from them years ago. I think it was the last one they had.

    Reply
    1. Dewayne Jones

      Wow what a time I have been in Ham Radio since 2006, A I have feel in love with Universal Radio, just on line. Whenever I need some equipment I go to there site. When you have a company you dealt with you think they will be around forever, but owners are human also. I want to whish Barbara and Fred a wonderful retirement. You will be missed. Dewayne KE5VDK 73s

      Reply
  16. Andrew Thall

    I started buying from Universal Radio when they were located in downtown Columbus back in the early 1970’s. Unfortunately, due to my cat allergy, I wasn’t able to go into the store for the past several years. I wish Fred and his wife a long and healthy retirement.
    Andy Thall, K2OO

    Reply
  17. John Edwards

    I’ve been a customer of Universal Radio since the 80s. I could always count on them, and Burghardt Radio, to take trade-ins. I miss the MomandPop stores and that personal service. I miss Ross in Idaho also. Of course HRO is great, but there was just something special about an independent dealer. Now, we need a place to buy parts and connectors, there isn’t many of them left.

    Reply
  18. Gene

    Only been licensed since January but bought my yaesu ht and accessories from Universal.

    Was hoping to get upgraded to general and venture over for my first hf once they reopened

    Reply
  19. John Dunker

    I couldn’t be happier for Fred and Barb as they enter this exciting new chapter together! And I am sad, as well, for the loss of their fine contributions and outstanding character as they and their staff served our wonderful hobby over the many years.

    I’ve been fortunate to have had both a business, and customer relationship with them, and all of my interactions with them were a real pleasure! I consider them both as friends.

    Gods Blessings to you both! John, W9WR

    Reply
    1. Dan V

      Farewell to Universal Radio. It was a unique and special shop with unique and special people. There will probably never be another ham store quite like Universal.

      Reply
  20. Lou Janicek

    Wow …. definitely the passing of an era. Universal Radio will be sorely missed! While not a “power buyer” I did buy a number of rigs/HT’s, antenna, etc. from Universal. I still maintain that their web site is the “easiest and most logically laid out web by any ham radio supplier! I used to enjoy scrolling through the rigs to drool over some new shiny gizmo I would like but could not afford. There phone staff was friendly and their service was great.
    Best wishes Fred & Barb in your retirement.
    Lou N2CYY

    Reply
  21. Roger Guerrero

    Oh man, I am so saddened about this news. The one thing I could count on from Universal was always good advice and quality service. My last purchase from them was just a couple of months ago, a used Sangean ATS-909X, and its worked very well. I’ve been an SWL since 1990, and my best purchases were always from UR. Congrats Fred and Barbara, a long and happy life, and lots of cuddles for the kitties!

    Reply
  22. Chris

    I am really surprised at this news.Universal Radio was a staple of the hobby.I started purchasing from them in the 90’s as a SWL and made my last purchase as a licensed Amateur Radio operator.I didn’t alway buy big ticket items but their service was always exemplary and never an issue.
    Their used list was always worth a long look too and I made a few of those over the years.
    I always visited the website when looking at radios from any source to get an idea of the features and going rates.My last radio I acquired was the TR751A and the description helped make my decision easier for a used radio.
    They will be missed and my cats over the years will no doubt miss the shortwave kitties.

    Reply
  23. Daryll Symington N8EBR

    Fred and Universal has outlasted most all of the other storefront hobby radio retailers, many went the internet sales route or completely gone altogether. I’ve been a customer of Universal since the 1980’s, purchasing radios and antennas and other radio stuff. Not only was I a customer of Fred’s, but also a supplier. He purchased many of my books to sell in his store. It was always enjoyable to go to the store and play with the radios he had working there. Retirement has creeped up on many of us. I wish Fred and Barbara well.

    Reply
  24. Giuseppe

    End of an era indeed….sad to hear but I wish them all the best. For many years I always enjoyed browsing their website and I made sure to keep my business with them.

    Anyone who hasn’t yet got a copy of Fred’s “Shortwave Receivers Past & Present” should grab a copy.
    If you like looking at SW radios you won’t be disappointed in this amazing piece of work.

    https://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/books/0004.html

    I will certainly make a final purchase before they close up.

    Reply
  25. Tom

    Sorry to hear Universal is closing. They have been a reputable business for a long time and will be missed. I’ve bought a number of items from them over the decades (most recently a Tecsun PL-660) and always had a good experience.

    Thanks to Fred & Barbara for all their support of the hobby over the years and hope they enjoy their retirement.

    Reply
  26. E.J. Smith

    End of an era, indeed. I wish them the best. I’ve purchased many things from UR over the years and I always appreciated their willingness to answer questions and assist. Interestingly, Glenn Hauser gave them a plug in his recent DX Digest.

    Reply
  27. Pingback: End of an Era: Universal Radio is closing shop – dxradio.de

  28. Mario

    I will miss Universal Radio terribly but everyone deserves retirement, it’s the best time of life. I wish them happiness and good health. Thank you Universal Radio.

    Reply
  29. Joseph Bolus

    This is sad to the extreme.
    My last purchase from Universal was just 2 months ago with the rebranded (and late production run) Eton Elite 750 which I have been very satisfied with.

    A lifelong SWLer, it’s at least gratifying that the website will remain up for awhile. I think I’ve visited it at least twice a week for the past 15 years.

    Thanks for helping to keep the hobby exciting all these years!
    You will be missed!!

    Reply
  30. Dean Bianco

    This is sad news, indeed….we will have to purchase SWL items from other dealers. I’ve been a customer of Fred and Barbara’s for nearly all of the 37 years Universal was in their hands. I have had nothing but top-notch customer service from them. On the brighter side of this news is that the Osterman’s are of retirement age; had they been younger, say with children, this would be sadder if they were forced to sell the business. I suspect the hard reality of declining sales from a shrinking hobby population has hastened their retirement decision. Let’s all think of the employees who will be out of work, and wish them a speedy new job attainment. In conclusion, we should place any want-list orders while supplies last. Our sincerest blessings to Fred, Barbara, the staff, and their feline companions.

    Dean

    Reply
  31. Rob L

    Sad to say, it’s a sign of the times. This is a great loss to the hobby. Many thanks for years of great service and best wishes to Fred and Barb for a happy life.

    Reply
    1. Guy Atkins

      Universal Radio’s web site lives on at Archive.org !

      Here’s the very first capture with cat photos:
      https://web.archive.org/web/19990422040712/http://www.universal-radio.com:80/index.html

      The oldest archived web page for Universal is from September 26, 1997:
      https://web.archive.org/web/19971014114854/http://www.universal-radio.com/index.html

      Hmm… gimme one of those nice Lowe HF-225 Europa models for only $1299.95 (http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/commrxvr/0225.html) or maybe a new AOR AR7030 for just $1149.95 (https://web.archive.org/web/19971014115440/http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/commrxvr/0777.html)

      Although I live “only” 2,000 miles from Reynoldsburg I always enjoyed my visits to their store over the years and chatting radio with Fred and Barb.

      Reply
  32. David Branscome

    Apparently they couldn’t find a buyer? Or maybe they didn’t even try. I don’t know. Sadly, we are living in challenging times and things aren’t what they used to be, including radio hobbies. ??

    Reply
    1. James Brown KC8LKL

      Too bad you did not find a buyer for Universal Radio, since you and staff have such great working knowledge of Ham radio and SWL. You have an excellent repair and modification technicians. I would have thought that buying a 30+ year with your fame would have given you the money you wanted for retirement. I never a For Sale notice for Universal Radio. Seems that there would be qualified Hams that would have been capable of continuing a successful Universal Radio for a few more decades! 73

      Reply
  33. Barry Felstein N8PVX

    I’ve been going to Universal for about 37 years. I found the old store in Reynoldsburg by accident the first time I went to Columbus as an adult in 1983 for the NHRA Springnationals. That first visit, playing with the display JRC NRD-515 and the M-600 decoder connected to it got me totally hooked. Soon, I owned a 515 too, and an M-600a. Then came a NRD-525, along with other receivers and transceivers, and all the rest. I would usually go to Universal a couple of times a year, when I went to the race and when some new radio would come out and I would go there to play with it.

    I’m glad I went the one last time last summer, as it’s difficult to travel at this time.

    Good luck to Fred, Barb, and the cats.

    Reply
    1. Ken McKenzie

      And I bought a Universal M-7000 decoder from them then a year or so later the new chip to update it. Many small purchases after that.

      Reply
  34. Eric

    Universal Radio will, indeed, be missed. I will personally miss seeing Fred and Barb in the store, seeing Fred at Hamvention, and seeing both Fred and Barb at the Columbus Hamfest. Universal Radio was a big supporter of our local hamfest. Thank you, Fred, for many years of support to the Athens County Amateur Radio Association.

    I wish Fred and Barb all the best in their retirement!

    73,
    Eric, WD8RIF

    Reply
  35. Lou

    It was a long time coming. So many parts of the radio hobby are dying off or sailing into the sunset.

    Wishing the very best for everyone at Universal Radio.

    If anyone from Universal is reading this….Please keep the site up. It’s an invaluable tool.

    Can’t think of how many times I’ve been on HRO/Gigaparts/DXE and think to myself that they needed to hire whoever did the site design for Universal.

    There is a lot to be said for functionality over looks.

    Might not be pretty but I could count on excellent descriptions, images including panel layouts, and an organized listing of accessories available.

    Reply
  36. Jerry V Di Trolio

    I’m Just Shocked That Universal Radio Is Closing It’s Doors,Forevers !!!!, I’ve Been A Proud Customer Since The Last 40 Years, I’ve Purchase,Police Scanners,CB’s,Shortwave Portables,Radio Publications,Shortwave Logging Sheets,Amature Lisencing Study Guites, I’m Speechless ,!!!!,And Very Sad To Hear This Sad Bit Of News,Radio Has Always Been My Passion,Either As Listener,Hobbiest,A CB’er,I Got My Licence From The FCC,On 7/23/1974,Call Sign,KHW 6006,CB,Handel,”Uncle Sam”, I’ll Miss You,Universal Radio,And Especially Eric,I Enjoy He Helped Over My Radio Purchases,O er The Past 40 Years !!!!,I Enjoyed Eric Introduction Of Any New Radios For The Public.

    Reply
    1. shafqat mir

      Pharmacist here I wish them happiness and lots
      Of luck
      I purchased so many things from them and enjoyed

      The hobby great people my favorite
      Sony 2010

      Reply
  37. Phil Marshall

    I wish them the best in their retirement. I have purchased several very nice rigs from them and they were always polite, prompt, and extremely helpful to everyone. Enjoy your retired folks, you’ve earned it!

    Reply
  38. Jim Wimer

    Very sad news ,been going there ,since Gibby oned it,in the old A & P store I think it was ,in the 60s.Congratulations to Barbara & Fred, on their retirement 73 & Stay Safe

    Reply
  39. Satyan

    Their website was a reference point for me from my young days. Sad news, but everyone needs a break. GOOD luck to Fred and Barbara from Chennai India.

    73 vu3mes Satyan.

    Reply
  40. Marie Lamb

    I’m sorry that Universal is closing. However, I wish Fred and Barbara the best in their retirement. Also, they advertised for years on my “DXing with Cumbre” radio show. Thanks to them for their financial and moral support of our efforts!

    Reply
  41. Walt Salmaniw

    Oh, can it really be? One by one, we’re all aging, and Fred and Barb are well-deserving of a long and healthy retirement. I can’t think of anyone else who’s done so much for the hobby we love as these two. From publishing, to manufacturing great equipment, to carrying all of those difficult to source radio bits. Universal Radio will truly be missed. Happy retirement, Fred and Barbara (as I sip on a hot chocolate, re-reading Shortwave Receivers Past and Present). Walt S. in Victoria, BC, Canada

    Reply
  42. Paul

    This is very sad, but I wish Fred and Barb all the best. Thank you both for being part of our hobby for so many good and wonderful years.

    Reply
    1. Bill Mead

      I purchased my JRC NRD-525 from Universal in the early ’90s and it’s still my main receiver to this day. They’ve played a big part in my radio hobby for thirty years and will likely continue to do so for the rest of my life.
      Good luck and happy retirement!

      Reply
  43. Daniel Robinson

    A shock but not that unexpected — we all hoped to have UR around for many more years. I bought my first Drake R8 receiver from Fred in 1992/93 and the now former annual visits to Universal during summertime radio meetings were something we all looked forward to.

    I am sure everyone joins in wishing Fred and Barb and all remaining staff the best of luck in life in the future!

    Reply

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