(MINNEAPOLIS, MN) Back when I was a mild-mannered reporter for a metropolitan newspaper, one of my favorite parts of the job was the oft-repeated chance to score free grub from those upon whose activities I regularly reported and opined.
Iid swallow my class envy and spend a few hours with the "cheese eaters," shocking my digestive system by imbibing "adult beverages" that didnit, for once, come from bottles with screw-off caps commonly sold in six packs for a buck-ninety-five. Couple this with suffering hours of listening to people with way too much disposable income complain about the travails of living a lifestyle for which many would give their eye teeth, Iid excuse myself, escaping back to the real world.
This past Friday night, thankfully, was a refreshing contrast to the above.
I was one of several people invited to celebrate the opening of Appleis Mall of America store with a light social event to mark the occasion. Several of us shopped, socialized and exchanged business cards from 6 8:00 p.m. It was an interesting mix of people. Of course, the social animal I am, I tried to talk to each and every one of them.
While I was still sober, I took time to survey the layout, and was, at once, excited, self-pleased and downright proud to be a Mac user.
I have no idea how long the store had been visible to the public, but it was interesting to stand outside the store before we entered, and watch passers-by, noting their reaction. I overheard several people comment on the fact that Apple has a store; never once did I see or overhear anyone who didnit know what those big glowing bitten-Apple logos stood for. I recalled the word "cool" escaping the lips of several people. Then the doors opened.
Of course, the storeis layout is common knowledge by now:
1) When you first enter, you see the customer checkout counter, which consists of two iMacs running a custom, Apple-developed POS (Point of Sale) application for ringing up purchases. I tried to remember the name of the application on which it was originally based, but I was not sober by then.
2) To the immediate right is a section of iBooks, alongside an AirPort base station.
3) To the immediate left is a bank of PowerBooks, similarly AirPort equipped.
4) In the middle of the store are the rows of software.
5) To the left of the software is a wall of PowerMac G4s, connected to various digital cameras and camcorders.
6) To the left of the software is a set of Snow iMacs deemed the kids area. You know, the ball-shaped chairs.
7) Back right corner of the store was the "Genius Bar." I took the opportunity to quiz one of the resident Geniuses on my incessant problem of not being able to share files from behind my AirPort base stationis routing functionality.
8) Back left, is the section labeled with the sign "Etc." This where you find a smattering of cables, printers and the like
9) Back center is the theatre, where a wall is covered with a screen for videos, demos and other visual treats. When I first saw it, the psychedelic images from iTunes were playing. Since this was a Jobsian event, I half expected the servers to hand out courtesy bags of LSD. I had to settle for Chardonnay.
The best part of the event was the buzz of conversation. This was far more subdued and far less hectic than the convention centers overflowing with multicolored rivers of humanity known as Macworld Expos; but there wasnit any less excitement here.
I got a chance to talk at length with Duke Zurek, the Store Manager. He said that within a 10-mile radius of the Mall of America, there are 36,000 Mac users. We also spoke for a while about how the Mall of America store compared to the other three currently opened. It seems that this Friday-night gathering is a first for the store chain. Judging from the way things went, this should be a required part of future store openings.
I didnit get to talk with Ron Johnson, Apple Senior VP for Retail, like Iid planned. Of course the man was busy meeting everyone and addressing the crowd. Since he lives in Edina (southwestern Minneapolis suburb), it shouldnit be too difficult to see him in the future.
I spoke with a few store employees. A good number of them are part-time employees, Mac users hailing from occupations like teaching and graphic arts, glad to serve the Mac community in this big way.
There were Cupertino employees in attendance as well. I spoke for a while with Mark Altekruse, Music and Audio Marketing Manager for Worldwide Markets. Others were in town from various areas of Appleis retail operation to help with the grand opening. (Side note for those who may not know: the store management consists of one to four people -- the manager, the lead Mac Genius, and two other assistant managers.)
Those in attendance comprised a cross section of the Mac community: businessmen, programmers, account execs, teachers. It was interesting to hear their thoughts about the future of Apple and the future (fingers-crossed) success of this retail venture.
The fact that Apple invited employees from Mac retailers signals the companyis intent to keep those bridges strong. Twenty-five Apple stores alone wonit do anything to increase the companyis market share. This reporter hopes that the Mac retailing community realizes their importance. Sure, just the fact that Apple has a store in town may worry those whose livelihood is tied to serving the Mac community. The weekend events may prove that those fears shouldnit be assigned the enormity previously given.
Even though I already had plans to show up the next morning to take part in the official grand opening, it was still a pleasure and a privilege to meet with the "VIPs" the night before and have a physical part in ushering in a new era of Apple history.
Hmmm I wonder what the poor people are doing this summer?
Rodney O. Lain is a Mac snob. When he isnt sucking on caviar, he is a regular contributor to The Mac Observer with his "iBrotha" column. He lives in St. Paul, MN -- five minutes from the Mall of America.