I remember Tandy (UK subsidiarity of Radio Shack) and had many of their electronic starter kits bought for me when I was younger! Those that came with a multitude of wires to connect to components that were broken out to springs. I still use my Tandy 3rd hand croc clip thing. Tandy ended up being bought by Carphone Warehouse, which converted the retail units into mobile phone shops...
We still have Maplin's over here
, which now really only supplies gadgets and a small assortment of components. Those components that they do sell are hideously overpriced. However I remember reading that at the beginning of the last decade, they almost went broke as a component supplier to hobbyists. The business was turned around (and substainally grew) by selling gadgets and other electronic widgets.
I'm lucky in that I live in a major city, so we have a RS Components
(Allied Electronics in the USA) trade counter within a 5-10 minute drive. They have a reasonable selection of stuff in stock, but you can get anything from their catalogue ordered online for store pickup within 10am next day (if in stock at their trade counter, same day)! Their catalogue not only has a plentiful array of components (not necessarily the best prices, but then single off parts never are) but also a good array of hardware (nuts+bolts+etc), tools and even Hydraulic+Pneumatic parts. They never seem bothered when I've come in for a couple of caps or my smallest order to date - a short cut-tape of 0401 resistors!
Also there is Farnell
(Newark in the US) and Rapid Electronics
that both do next business day parts ordering. I have put an order into Farnell before at 7pm and have it arrive next day. Farnell and RS Components between them pretty much stock every major IC manufacturers parts and development kits.
For more obscure parts or better prices, we can order from over the pond with DigiKey/Mouser and have it here usually in 3-5 days.
To be honest, with online ordering and fast delivery I feel that there has been no better time for a electronics enthusiast (well certainly here in the UK/US - I don't know what it would be like somewhere else). Even though its nice (and handy) to pop to a local store for the odd part, reality is, that is rarely needed. Especially as the range of components is so diverse now, they probably wouldn't have it in stock anyway.
Also lets not forget the free/cheap electronic CAD tools available and the even cheaper PCB manufacturing from China/HK suppliers. Plus the plentiful supply of cheap and very power microcontrollers with (generally) good support and extremely cheap (compared to what they used to be) development tools. If you want a datasheet, it requires 10 seconds on Google, then another 10 seconds or so to download it in full. Back when RadioShack/etc was selling components, you would have to persuade the IC manufacturers to mail you out a whole wod of paper (or on floppy disk if you was lucky)...
So, it is sad that places like RadioShack/Tandy/Maplin's/etc have changed, however lets not forget the ease and convenience we have nowadays. The only real disadvantage is that it requires a bit of forward planning when developing an electronic project and doing a proper, researched BOM so you don't require many separate orders... which is not a bad thing. Anyhow when using SMD parts, gone the days where you could knock something up on a Veroboard in the same day. But with the many cheap development boards, you can make a quick lashup even quicker than using Veroboard.
I'm looking forward to the future and what that will bring!