With over 300 stores in the US (and growing), Apple has managed to attract quite a following to its retail locations. The stores consistently stay packed, carry a supreme selection of products, and customers usually leave with a huge grin on their faces. But, what does it take to get to that point? What exactly goes into an Apple Store launch, and how grueling is the long waiting period before the store is actually opened to the public? As a frequent write for Maclife.com and a huge Apple fan, this writer is here to tell you all about the days leading up to South Carolina’s brand spankin’ new Apple Store.
I live in the Upstate portion of South Carolina, in the Greenville and Spartanburg area. Despite what most people have to say about Apple, Inc. in our area, there are plenty of Mac users, and even more who are reliant on their iPhones and iPods.
But of course, with plenty of Mac users, what are they do if they live in a city without an Apple Store? Where do they take their devices to a Genius Bar for service? In this case, they’d have to trek 180 miles (round-trip) to the South Park store in Charlotte, NC; or take their misbehaving device to one of the three stores near Atlanta, GA (352 miles round-trip).
Needless-to-say, this area was in desperate need of an Apple Store.
Beginning in 2007, people in Greenville, SC started hearing rumors that Apple was scouting the area for a place to build a retail store. A few months later, they then learned that Apple had finally settled on a place: Magnolia Park (on the former site of the Greenville Mall). The Greenville Mall was set for demolition and would give way to a new retail park.
But then the recession hit. Magnolia Park was just a dream that still, to this day, isn’t a reality. Apple had to search for a new place to build a store, but it wouldn’t look at Greenville for a few more years.
The Charleston Store
In 2008, Apple announced the opening of the King Street retail store in Charleston, SC. Many people who lived Upstate, including myself, were crushed at this announcement. Would we ever get an Apple Store?
The Long Wait and a Shining Lite
In late 2009 and early 2010, we learned that Apple had began scouting locations again, this time at the Haywood Mall–one of the largest malls in the state. The mall tenants, like other stores in the area, had been going through a restructuring period during the rough economy. This meant that there were enough vacancies for Apple to set up shop.
In 2010, a job listing on Apple’s job section confirmed that Apple would be coming to Haywood Mall. A forum post would later keep all who wanted more information informed almost daily on the building process.
The Building Process, More Waiting, and More Building
While Apple was going through rounds of interviews in early April/May, the store was under heavy construction. In standard Apple-style, a facade was erected to keep the prying eyes of passersby out of the construction site. This part seemed like it took forever, as more and more people began building up anticipation for the launch.
Image via g-man430
Soon, part of the mall parking lot would be home to almost 100 crates filled with steel, glass, unicorn dust, and other magical elements that go into designing an Apple Store. A simple glance in the direction of the construction site confirmed that this was going to be a giant store, especially because Apple took up two store lots.
Image via g-man430
The building then progressed. I must have passed by that facade three to four times a month, just waiting, wishing, wondering and hoping that the Apple Store would open soon.
We Get the News
On Tuesday, July 6, 2010, the facade was finally taken down. You could see the beautifully crafted aluminum exterior of the store. However, Apple had left black plastic veil over the front of the store, almost as if it were a brand-new Mac ready to be unwrapped.
Image via g-man430
Two days later, Apple began sending out emails to all who live in the area and had registered an Apple product. The message said:
“Come to the new Apple Store, Haywood Mall, and bring your curiosity. It’s the best place to get set up with the new iPhone 4, learn all about the Mac, see the amazing things iPad can do—even get advice for your business.”
The official opening date was scheduled for July 10, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.
Click image to embiggen
This was the first Apple Store Grand Opening I’ve attended, so I didn’t know what to expect other than what I’ve heard from others. When I arrived at 8:00 a.m., I thought I would be near the front of the line. Well, I guess you could say I was–if you believe that 120 people ahead of you is the “front of the line.”
As the minutes grew closer to 10:00 a.m., the line grew to about 1,000 people. Then, out of nowhere, Apple Store employees with blue shirts came running out from the store, chanting “Let’s go Apple, let’s go!”
The employees spent about 10-15 minutes before the store opening to go around and give everyone in line a high-five, then they proceeded to run upstairs in the mall, still chanting their mantra. It was madness, but oh-so-fun at the same time.
Soon enough, we were let into the store, greeted by the employees at the door handing out free t-shirts. I was making my very first purchase: an iPhone 4 Bumper.
There were roughly 100-200 people let into the store at a time, each making tons of purchases. People were purchasing iPhones, iPads, and even Macs.
Would I Do it Again?
Absolutely, except the next time I go to an Apple Store opening, I’ll be more inclined to bring my iPad and a lawn chair. And, I might get there a little earlier. But, the experience was like none other. It was great just to be around others who share a similar interest and love the same Apple products that I do.
If you’ve never been to an Apple Store opening before, I would highly recommend going if you get a new store in your area.