A Mac showplace in Towson

The new Apple Store has one goal: hooking you up with a Mac

Apple Store in Towson Town Center

Crowds remained steady throughout the day Saturday at the grand opening of the Apple Store in Towson Town Center. (Photo by David Zeiler, Special to SunSpot / October 10, 2002)

Stanley Bailey stopped by the new Apple Store in Towson Town Center last Saturday afternoon to investigate the possibility of buying a new Macintosh computer.

"I came over to see what they had and to play with their computers," Bailey, who appeared to be in his 60s, said as he manipulated an image with Adobe Photoshop 7.

He was working on a dual-processor QuickSilver G4 tower that was attached to one of Apple Computer Inc.’s 22-inch flat-screen Cinema Displays.

Bailey is the type of customer that Apple is trying to attract with its growing chain of stores: people who don’t own a Mac but who want to learn more about them -- and then buy one.

Until now, Bailey said he has been using the computers at the Parkville Public Library. He was unimpressed with the Windows PCs.

"Macs are a hell of a lot easier," he said.

Tiring of the library’s 10 cent-per-page fee for printouts and feeling a need to have a machine for more than word processing soon had Bailey thinking about a Mac.

"I like Photoshop, [Adobe] Illustrator, iMovie," he said. "I’m trying to catch up on some of this stuff."

Bailey said the only thing keeping him from buying a Mac was that he "wanted to be able to come back for support." He tried going to CompUSA Inc., which features a Macintosh section, but couldn’t find anyone knowledgeable enough for his questions.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., has designed its retail stores for customers like Bailey -- with plenty of hardware to ogle, plenty of Mac-savvy salespeople to talk it up -- the Towson store's staff totals about 20 -- and plenty of support during and after the sale.

"We want this to be the best place to explore, learn about and try out the Mac experience," said Allen Olivo, Apple’s senior director for retail. "And hopefully, you’ll buy one and take it home tonight."

Saturday’s opening of the Towson store marked the arrival of Apple’s 41st retail outlet. Olivo said the company plans to have 50 by the end of the year.

But some may wonder why Apple is pushing a chain of retail stores. Clearly, Mac users don’t need an Apple Store to buy Mac gear; you can find it in catalogs, at outlets like CompUSA -- and even from Apple’s online store.

Critics also point to the example of struggling PC maker Gateway Inc., which started on its chain of 300-plus stores in 1996, but has closed about as many stores over the past 18 months as Apple has opened.

Yet Apple has forged ahead, convinced that the need for physical locations to showcase its products outweighs any negative factors. According to Olivo, the goal of an Apple Store is to offer "a unique retail experience."

How?

  • First, nothing beats having a place where you can see, touch and play with the latest Apple gadgets.

  • Second, there’s the Genius Bar. There, Mac users can pose vexing technical questions to the genius on duty.

    If the "Genius" is stumped, there's a hotline to an even more knowledgeable genius in California. You can even bring an ailing Mac to the Genius Bar for repairs.

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