April 5th, 2007
When Apple opened a store in the nearby Mall at Millenia here in Orlando I was beside myself with joy. You see, up until then I had to drive two hours to Tampa to visit an Apple Store. Not a big deal to a dedicated Apple fan, but it does make weekly visits a bit difficult.
When the Millenia Apple Store first opened you knew immediately that it was..., um, a tiny bit special; compared other Apple stores, the Millenia Store was downright Lilliputian. There was no room for a large screen or demo area like the Tampa store has, the Genius Bar should be renamed The Genius Booth, and the vast array of peripherals and software that can occupy whole floors in some Apple Stores was hardly vast at all, more like a very limited afterthought.
I've always a special fondness for Orlando's first Apple Store. Maybe it's because it was so small, like the runt of the litter, and I've always like rooting for the little guy.
Still, it has always puzzled my why Apple chose to make the Millenia Store so small; maybe Apple didn't think Orlando had a strong enough Apple community to support a larger store.
What Apple failed to realize is that Orlando is a tourist town as well as a tech-center. We get people from around the world visiting our attractions, our major conferencing center, and our nearby beaches all year long. We've got The University Of Central Florida, Rollins College and Full Sail here as well as many smaller schools of higher and technical education. There are also many major and minor high-tech companies in Research Park and other industrial areas throughout the city. And it is a city complete with urban sprawl, a philharmonic orchestra, traffic jams, live theater, street musicians, night life, and an increasing crime rate.
In other words, Orlando ain't no one stop light town, and the people who live or visit here are not here just for the mosquitos (a local delicacy). We are a savvy lot and we have little patience for things at don't work well (except for our road construction crews). After all, who wants to be stuck sitting in front of a computer when they could be checking out the bathing suits and what's in them at the beach or local lake (and we've got a zillion of them (filled bathing suits and lakes)).
Consequently, My Little Millenia Apple Store has been pretty much overrun with people ever since it opened its doors on October 24, 2003, even after Apple opened a second store not 10 miles away in Florida Mall. Both stores get so swamped with customers that at times it's hard to move around.
I think Apple noticed, because now the Millenia Apple Store is even smaller than it was before, shrunken while construction to increase its size goes on around the shoe box store.
So small you have to step outside to login.
Even in its micro-size the store still attracts people. I stopped in on a Monday afternoon, likely the least busiest time of the week, and found people still poking at iPods, playing with MacBooks, mousing with Mac Pros, and most importantly, buying stuff.
Sign at the entrance (Hmm, it was never full-size).
You might say that this wee store is a Apple Store pupa surrounded by a cocoon of construction. Sometime in April even this store-in-a-store will close. When it emerges from its chrysalis a few short weeks later it will be bigger, brighter, and better able to handle the flood of customers.
Three more customers and they'd have to turn people away.
Wouldn't it be cool if the Millenia Apple Store re-opening coincided with the release of Leopard?
OS X version 10.5 and Apple Store Millenia Mall version 2.0: My how they've grown!
(By the way: I was just kidding about the mosquitos being a delicacy, most folks here would rather eat gator than mosquitos.)
Vern Seward is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.
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