I was born in 1983 and although I don’t remember the launch of the Macintosh in 1984 I do remember the launch of Apple’s retail stores in 2001. Both events changed Apple forever, and although Apple’s retail stores might not be listed alongside the original Macintosh, iMac, iPod, or iPhone they are just as important at making Apple the successful company it is today.
Since first hearing about Apple’s retail ambitions I have waited in a lot of lines for exciting new Apple products and experiences. To commemorate the tenth anniversary of Apple’s retail phenomenon I thought I would share with you three of my favorite Apple Store experiences. Surprisingly they all involve waiting in lines.
On May 19, 2001, Apple opened its first Apple Store in Tysons Corner, Virginia. I never made it to the grand opening, but a few months later I was the first customer in line for Apple’s 25th store in Salem, New Hampshire. I woke up at 4:30 that morning, and got dropped off at a far away mall in a neighboring state just to be part of the excitement. I didn’t know what to expect. Waiting in line for the launch of a new Apple product, or the opening of a new Apple Store is not like waiting in line anywhere else. Instead of standing single file with strangers, you are queued up with undiscovered friends who are just as passionate about technology as you are. As the doors opened and the Apple employees began to clap it was easy to see how the Apple retail experience is different from every other store I had ever visited. Everything inside a Apple Store is clean and new. The products are all thoughtfully designed, and so is their presentation. When visiting an Apple Store you get the impression the employees care about what they do and the company they represent. I knew from the second I stepped foot inside Apple’s Salem Store I would like to be part of that team.
Three years later I got my chance. Starting as a Mac Specialist I helped open the Apple Store at Chestnut Hill for a whole new line of excited Apple fans. Over the course of the next three years I made my way to Mac Genius and then lead Mac Genius as the employees around me came and went. My most memorable experience at the Genius Bar was during the opening of our sister store in Braintree Massachusetts. During the opening my manager took all of the other experienced Genius to work at the new store while I managed the Genius bar at Chestnut Hill for a weekend alone. In the days before concierge, the Genius Bar reservation system, customers were helped on a first come first serve with only charisma and mental fortitude to assist you. To my knowledge I am the only Mac Genius ever to complete an entire busy weekend on my own. As I remember I replaced over 75 iPods on Saturday and Sunday might have been the busier day. What I would give to go back and work the Genius Bar line again for a weekend in a time before customers were sorted by computer and everyone and their uncle has an iPhone.
The last Apple line I ever had the pleasure of waiting in was for the launch or the original iPhone. Two friends and I brought lawn chairs and camped out in the Chestnut Hill mall for three hours waiting for Apple’s elusive multi-touch wonder to go on sale. Even though I was out of my current phone contract I was still undecided about buying an iPhone. $600 is a awful lot of money to spend on a device I had never held, let alone seen in person. I spent the time writing, drawing and doodling on my Newton. Impressing my fellow Apple followers with the fact that I had a Newton and that I was waiting three hours for a product I wasn’t planning to buy. When the moment came and the glass doors opened I like every other Apple devotee waiting in line walked inside and plunked down $600 for a phone we had only drooled over on the internet. As I was leaving the store I quickly ran over to one of the display tables, picked up a sample iPhone and launched the notes application. Without a second of training I was able to type out a test sentence with both thumbs and delete my note just as quickly by crumpling it into the trash just like on my Newton. For the next few weeks I showed off my iPhone to everyone who asked. A month of popularity and super cool phone for three hours of waiting and $600 in cash. Apple lines are totally worth it.