2001 Revisited: The Apple Store Opens for Business

In my series 2001 Revisited, I’m covering Apple’s major announcements from 20 years ago.

It’s hard to imagine the Apple of 2021 without its huge retail footprint, but the first Apple Stores opened just 20 years ago.

Let’s jump right to the press release:

Apple today announced that it will open 25 retail stores across the U.S. in 2001, with the first two stores opening this Saturday, May 19, at Tysons Corner in McLean, Virginia, and the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California.

“The Apple stores offer an amazing new way to buy a computer,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Rather than just hear about megahertz and megabytes, customers can now learn and experience the things they can actually do with a computer, like make movies, burn custom music CDs, and publish their digital photos on a personal website.”

Knowledgeable salespeople will be able to demonstrate Macs® running innovative applications like iTunes and iMovie™, as well as Mac® OS X, Apple’s revolutionary new operating system. All of the Macs are connected to the Internet, and several are connected to digital lifestyle products that complement the Mac experience, such as digital cameras, digital camcorders, MP3 players, and handheld organizers.

On its website, the company went into more detail about why the Apple Store was such an important step:

Apple currently has around 5% market share in personal computers. This means that out of one hundred computer users, five of them use Macs. While that may not sound like a lot, it is actually higher than both BMW’s and Mercedes-Benz’s share of the automotive market. And it equals 25 million customers around the world using Macs.

But that’s not enough for us. We want to convince those other 95 people that Macintosh offers a much simpler, richer and more human-centric computing experience. And we believe the best way to do this is to open Apple stores right in their neighborhoods. Stores that let people experience firsthand what it’s like to make a movie right on a Mac. Or burn a CD with their favorite music. Or take pictures with a digital camera and publish them on their personal website. Or select from over 300 software titles, including some of the best educational titles for kids. Or talk to a Macintosh “genius” at our Genius Bar. Or watch a demonstration of Mac OS X, our revolutionary new operating system, on our theater’s giant 10-foot diagonal screen.

Because if only 5 of those remaining 95 people switch to Macs, we’ll double our market share and, more importantly, earn the chance to delight another 25 million customers.

This was also used for full-page newspaper ads in areas that were home to new stores.

In this video, Steve Jobs gives a tour of what Apple came up with to lure Windows customers in:

That initial store design and layout spread across a bunch of different locations, including my own Saddle Creek store, where I was hired as a temporary salesperson for the holiday rush of 2006, before becoming a Mac Genius for a couple of years. Saddle Creek has since moved to a newer section of its shopping center and ushered in a new design for the stores.

The history of the Apple Store is an interesting one. For years, Ron Johnson was at the heart of it. In 2018, he did an interview on the now-defunct “Without Fail” podcast telling some pretty wild stories from those early days of Apple retail.

For a decade, the changes Apple has made to its stores were faithfully chronicled at ifoAppleStore, until its founder Gary Allen passed away in 2015. Today, folks like Michael Steeber faithfully report on the Apple stores.

From the very first store openings to dealing with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Apple store is how millions of people interact with Apple. It’s a bit cringe-worthy when Apple says that the stores are meeting places and town halls, but for many fans of the company and its products, there’s something special about them, even as they’ve changed and grown over the last 20 years.