10 Big Companies From the Aughts That Fell Faster Than You Can Say Gateway Computers
“Oh, how the mighty have fallen” is a quote that’s completely explained by a different quote: “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Of course, it seems like the mighty blew it, they used to be mighty! Every single one of our lives is probably in the realm of “fallen,” if you ask one of the mighty, which is difficult, because they usually have unlisted phone numbers and really tall fences around their house.
Anyways, here are 10 companies that were once household names, but now are defunct — or might as well be…
If you’ve always wondered why Gateway’s logo used cow print, I can finally answer that for you: The company was started, weirdly enough, on a cattle farm. Unfortunately, you’ve found this out far too late, as the company known for the type of computer that goes in the “family room” is long out of business, having been absorbed by Acer in 2007 for $710 million, a far cry from the multi-billion dollar company it once was.
Toys “R” Us
If you’re of a certain age, you remember Toys “R” Us as the closest thing to corporeal heaven a child could hope to grasp. Especially good test scores or other achievements might net you a stroll along the aisles, with your pick of the goods like an ancient ruler strolling an open-air bazaar, treasurer in tow. As an adult, every picture of the store makes my eyes seize, and the grammatical horror that was their name borders on infuriating. Unfortunately, they couldn’t compete when massive big-box stores like Walmart and Target started selling toys along with everything else, in a form factor that didn’t give parents migraines. Toys “R” Us officially filed for bankruptcy in 2017.
Once you’d aged past plastic toys, and if you’d evolved, like a Pokemon, into a thoroughly indoor kid like myself? Circuit City was the next place you’d dream of your parents accidentally leaving you. Poking at laptops, absorbing the sweat of a thousand socially anxious 13-year-olds via a well-worn demo station N64 controller, Circuit City was the place to be. Your dad would go in there because he needed to buy TurboTax, and you would desperately try to clear a couple levels of Crash Bandicoot while he looked for a red-shirted nerd to help him. What happened? Well, their direct competitor, Best Buy, ran circles around them, while Circuit City was happy to get weirder and more dusty.
Barnes & Noble, against all odds, continues to chug along, while the corpse of the superstore known as Borders sits desiccated on the road miles back. A sanctuary for the quiet child with a gap between the end of school and their parents’ workday, many a sticky soda hand leafed through magazines and CDs inside their stores. Unfortunately, those CDs would be part of their downfall. Borders made a couple of highly inadvisable bets, most notably leaning into physical media during the digital revolution, and instead of building an online presence, had another company run their online sales: a company called Amazon. Which is like having a robber balance your checkbook. If you don’t know what a checkbook is? What are you doing in this nostalgia play article anyways! Shoo, youths!
No need to waste too much virtual breath on probably the quintessential business implosion of the last 20 years. The skeletons of Blockbusters past still dot the landscape, turned into Thai restaurants and strange, small karate studios. Everyone knows the culprit here: Netflix. What they might not know is that Blockbuster had the chance to buy Netflix and turned them down — twice. Cookie Dough Bites can only carry you so far.
Nowadays, even the DVR is a thing of the past, given that even the shittiest modern internet hits speeds that NASA would have killed for a decade ago. For a while, though, we were in a no-man’s land where VHS, with their numerous points of fury and friction, weren’t well-loved, but streaming was a long way off. TiVo filled that gap with digital video recorders that could record television shows to a hard drive. Especially for the time, it genuinely was a great product, and at one point, it was approaching a Kleenex-esque takeover of common verbiage, where “TiVoing” something was a commonly known phrase. Unfortunately, TiVo failed for one main reason: Cable companies just built their functionality into cable boxes themselves, happily tacking on an extra charge that most people chose to pay rather than fumbling with multiple boxes.
Even all these years later, the name “Sam Goody” is still an absolute delight to say. I don’t know if how beautifully it rolls off the tongue had a big part in their success, but it definitely didn’t hurt. If you were wondering, yes, Sam Goody was a real guy: Sam “Goody” Gutowitz, the founder of the record store in question. A man known for strange promotions like giving away silver dollars to every customer who spent $15 at the store. Despite massive success, Goody himself exited the picture all the way back in 1978, selling the company because he felt it was tearing apart his sons. It was kicked from owner to owner, starting with the American Can Company, then Best Buy, then Trans World Entertainment, which would change that quirky, widely-known name to the confusing, disaster acronym “F.Y.E.” It was one of those horrific aughts slang mashups that it took everyone far too long to figure out meant “For Your Entertainment.” Shockingly, at least to me, there are still operating F.Y.E.s in a couple malls across the country, but we all know it’s not the same.
Sears was an absolute monolith, a business so big it was a literal part of the American landscape in the form of the Sears Tower in Chicago (now known as the Willis Tower, because nobody has any god damned respect in this country anymore). It wasn’t a passing fad like some others on this list, either. It had been around since 1886, which is a pretty solid chunk of U.S. history. In the 1990s and aughts, chances are that if you went to a mall, Sears was practically a load-bearing column taking up a humongous portion of the floorspace. What happened? Well, Walmart and Amazon, basically. Sears filed for bankruptcy in 2018. Well, at least the one-time retail behemoth will be remembered as Moe Syzslak's preferred spank fuel.
Sports Authority was sort of like Circuit City for kids who actually wanted to go to prom. It was filled with all manner of sports equipment that I would instinctively flinch at, assuming it had been hurled at my head. Though I wasn’t exactly a whale to them, they didn’t need me: They were, at one time, the biggest sports chain in the country. Until, yet again (and at this point you should have seen this coming), big-box retail stores and Amazon gave them a crisp curb-stomping, one that it was unable to crawl away from like Dick’s Sporting Goods. Sports Authority filed for bankruptcy in 2016, and in one last flex, they were still a huge enough chain that their going-out-of-business sale actually hurt other sports supply stores' profits.
At one point, if you needed a hip, sharp-shooting outfit to operate with questionable oversight in a foreign country, Blackwater was your first call! Then they allegedly did atrocities on civilians in Iraq and maybe murdered over a dozen civilians. Obviously, they were dismantled and punished for ostensibly being a private military company that dealt in war crimes. Just kidding! They just changed their name. Now they’re the slick, clean, almost unrecognizable and definitely not bloody-handed mercenaries known as “Constellis Holdings.”