Exploring ABC Electronics in Minneapolis

Exciting stuff is going on at work, but as often happens, excitement involves a bit of overtime. I spent last week in the Twin Cities, working with two test engineers to evaluate an ASIC during the day, and working on patent paperwork at night. I did manage to get away long enough to visit ABC Electronics, a surplus dealer in Minneapolis. (The Twin Cities are also served by the Ax-Man Surplus Stores, about which I will write another time.) I left ABC assuring myself that I am not jealous of the Twin Cities’ surplus options, but I’m not sure I believe myself.

ABC Electronics is a surplus store specializing in our kind of goods. The store is in an industrial area (a good sign for surplus houses!) and offers nothing outside but an aging sign and a steel security door set into a brick wall. Walking in and climbing a few steps to get to the sales floor, I saw narrow aisles arranged somewhat helter-skelter, packed with bright yellow and red plastic bins full of parts. Farther back, a row of shelves topped by blue 60-drawer storage bins formed a bit of a wall marking the back of the parts section.

Exploring a bit farther back, I found many shelves of used test equipment, some of it in reasonable shape and some questionable, at best. After a while I noticed that the equipment was organized by the stock numbers taped to the front panels, and there were no prices visible. I decided I had wandered out of the store and into ABC’s stock area. Heading back to the sales floor, a little exploration turned up two aisles with various pieces of test gear that did have prices. A pair of HP 8640B signal generators caught my eye. The price was fair, but unfortunately, a fair price is more than I’m ready to pay.

The rest of the aisles held parts galore. One aisle, so narrow I could barely turn around, had switches of all types. Other aisles had heat sinks, wire and cable, and all of the other items one would expect. I was tempted by some inexpensive solder wick. (If you have read the SMT IC soldering tutorial, you might guess I go through a lot of solder wick.) I remembered my rule about not buying off-brand solder wick and managed to resist. The blue bins in the back turned out to hold crystals and oscillators. I bought a 48.000 MHz oscillator for upcoming USB experiments.

I missed the most striking feature of the store until I went to the front to check out. Behind the counter was a wall of 60-drawer parts cabinets, stacked about 6 feet high and 15-20 feet wide. I hadn’t seen many semiconductors in the aisle, and now I had found them. Since they are behind the counter, one must ask for what one needs, but the parts are protected from damage. I was running out of time for my visit, so I didn’t spend much time on the semiconductors. A quick squint over the counter revealed some TI linear part numbers, some 1N diodes, and some SSI/MSI digital logic. Based on the linear part numbers, the selection goes a bit beyond the usual jellybean 74LS and 1458 range.

Over all, ABC had a comprehensive selection and was particularly strong in switches, electromechanical components, semiconductors, IC sockets, and crystals. I saw only a handful of displays and few tools. They had a sizeable stock of used power supplies and other test gear, but didn’t seem to welcome browsing. Twin Cities hams and electronics enthusiasts are lucky to have such a resource in town. That goes for the professionals as well — the engineers I was working with knew ABC well. For visitors, it’s worth stopping by when you’re in town.

ABC Electronics
315 7th Ave. N
Minneapolis, MN 55401