Grand Opening Report:
On Saturday, October 16, 2004, I attended the Grand Opening of the Apple Store in the Christiana Mall, in Newark, Delaware. It was the first time I waited in line for an Apple Store opening, but I don't want it to be the last. In fact, next time I want to be there first. I had been to the King of Prussia store on their grand opening day, but I was there after lunch, and there was no line, but they still had a cop keeping watch. They gave away 1,000 t-shirts that day, and all before I got there.
There's no big reason why I decided to go this time. One of the Mac news sites reported the upcoming opening, and when I saw that it was in Delaware, which I drive through on my Philly-Baltimore runs, I figured I should go, especially since I don't do anything else on the weekends. It would be a fun thing to report on my website, plus I would get a free t-shirt and a chance to win some cool stuff.
According to the store's website, only the first 100 visitors would receive a free t-shirt, so I knew I had to get there early. I planned on somewhere between 3 and 5 AM. To make sure that I would know where to enter the mall, and which way to head once inside, I drove from Baltimore to Newark (60 miles) on Friday evening to scope out the location before the mall closed.
I found the store on the first floor, and decided on the Food Court (which Apple's AirPort Extreme Base Station signal reaches!) as the best point of entry. If you are planning on lining up for other events at this store, such as the release of Tiger, the entrance you want is located between Lord & Taylor and Strawbridges. Once through the Food Court, make a left, and the Apple Store is located a couple of stores down on your left. You may also want to be aware that the security guards take themselves pretty seriously there, wearing hats and driving around with their orange flashers on, which makes them look about as authoritative as a doorman driving a construction vehicle. So, if they approach you, just politely let them know why you're there.
After peeking into the dark store, which had all of the computers running, including the Genius Bar displays, I headed back to Baltimore, where I watched an episode of Family Guy, went on the Internet, read a book about run-on sentences, did some laundry, and eventually got an hour of sleep.
I also checked the store's website again, and noticed that they had corrected it to say that the first 1,000 visitors would get a t-shirt. Because of this new information, I decided to get there a little later, maybe around 7. I got to bed later than I planned, so 7 ended up being when I left.
When I arrived at the mall at 8 AM, there were cars in the parking lot, but I didn't see anyone waiting outside. I then saw a woman walk right into the mall, so obviously it was unlocked. I worried that there might be a long line inside, since I got there later than I wanted to. Fortunately, the line was only about 15 people long.
Who was first in line? Mr. Supergeek who thinks that a video chat is a date, and also camps out for Star Wars tickets? Nope. Here's who I found at the front of the line:
They are UD students (I think) and had arrived at 3:45 AM. The one on the right was there to buy her first Mac, an iMac G5. Good choice.
As the line got longer, curious and confused passersby asked what they were giving away. They assumed that the store would have to be handing out free computers to attract such a crowd. Nope, just free t-shirts, and bragging rights for being the first group in. Waiting in line wasn't bad at all, and I hate lines. I thought it would be boring going alone, but I talked to a lot of people. You might assume that the line would consist of introverted geeks avoiding eye contact by hunching over laptops or avoiding conversation by listening to iPods, but that wasn't the case at all. Everyone was talking, taking pictures, and making coffee runs for each other. I even overheard one conversation where a man said that he decided not bring his iPod because he figured it wouldn't be social.
While we were waiting, the employees handed out entry forms for the Grand Opening Sweepstakes, which accepts entries in the store until November 30th, 2004. The prize package, worth about $2,350, includes:
- 17-inch iMac G5 with Combo drive
- iPod mini
- Canon PowerShot S410
- Canon ZR80
- Epson Stylus R200
At 10:00 the doors opened and we were let inside, greeted by the employees handing out high-fives left and right in the receiving line as U2's "Vertigo" single blasted on the speakers. They only let in a certain number of people at a time, which was nice because there was room to walk around and plenty of employees on hand to answer questions. After the first batch was completely in, the staff members took their positions. These two guys below were first to the checkout counter, and the one on the left won the "first customer" prize because the iPod model he wanted was right behind the counter. He had been waiting weeks for the opening so he could buy his iPod at the event.
I wasn't planning on buying anything, but they had the LaCie d2 Hard Drive Extreme models out, and since I need a FireWire drive, I went for one. It has FW400 and 800, but I won't be able to take advantage of the 800 until I get my G5. It is nice to know that I am prepared for the future though. Another nice thing about the drive is that comes from the factory formatted as HFS+, so I didn't have to initialize it before installing an OS. There was only one person in front of me at the checkout, but an employee decided that was too long of a wait and offered to take care of me at the Genius Bar. It was the first time I've ever sat at one, so I was excited. Actually, now that I think about it, I think it's the first time I've bought anything at an Apple Store. They have pretty nice bags. Wow, I'm a woman.
Before leaving, I took a walk around to check out the displays. I was hoping to see one of the 30" Cinema HD Displays in person, but they still weren't in. I asked one of the employees when they would show up, and he didn't know, and seemed a little frustrated with Apple about it. I had the same reaction at Towson. He did say that a few of the big stores have received some just to have them on display, but I don't think we'll be seeing them in large quantities anytime soon. The guy I was talking to actually used to work for the King of Prussia store, and said that other Christiana employees were from there as well. I told him that my friend won the door prize at KoP when they had the Music Night for the 3G iPod, and he said, "Wow, he must love us." I told Ted about this, and he said, "I already did."
I wanted to try Motion, but there was a long line of people outside waiting for my spot, so I decided to try it out later at the Towson store when I could work with it on a little more sleep.
The t-shirts actually go to the first 1,000 visitors to leave the store, since they're given on the way out. I suppose this gives people incentive to leave and let others in, plus the whole slapping-hands-while-running-in thing wouldn't go so well if t-shirts were involved. Getting geeks to do high-fives is challenging enough, so imagine them trying to hold free t-shirts at the same time. The miss rate would be incredible. The shirt came rolled up in the origami-type box shown below (sealed with Apple logo tape), and at the bottom on the inside was a white Apple logo:
The front of the shirt has the Apple logo and says "Christiana Mall," as you can see in my picture at the top of this article. The back of the shirt, just like many other Apple products, says "Designed by Apple in California." And yes, it's 100% cotton. For those of you who have watched the video above, yes, I do realize it's pretty pathetic that it features about 400 instances of me asking about the t-shirts. I couldn't leave empty handed!
Before leaving, I talked with Skip Haughay, who discovered my site while Googling for the store, and recognized me at the mall. Yes, I'm that famous. After giving my autograph, which Skip will claim he never requested, I learned that he is famous for writing the original IBM ViaVoice and now works for Synergy, the makers of KaleidaGraph. He also gets a special thanks for providing me with some footage for the video at the top of this page.
I was lucky got back to Baltimore just in time. It was just starting to rain when I was on I-95, and it hailed when I got inside. Less than two hours later, I-95 was a huge mess. One of my friends actually got stuck in it on her way from DC to Easton, PA, and was on a bus for nearly eight hours.
See you at the next opening!
Direct link to video if you want to download.