To me, taking a normal item—a t-shirt, say, or a water bottle—and slapping an Apple logo onto it doesn’t magically make it special. But don’t tell that to the hordes crowding the Apple Company Store in Cupertino, California.
Located in the heart of the Apple campus, the Apple Company Store looks more like a university bookstore than one of Apple’s own pristine retail outlets. And the Company Store is unlike your local Apple Store in other ways. You can’t make a Genius Bar appointment; there aren’t any support services offered. You can’t buy a Mac or other big ticket items there.
You can buy software and accessories. There are speakers, headphones, and iPod accessories in abundance; a large bookshelf displays a selection of software comparable to anything you’d find in an Apple retail store. Notably, the day I visited there wasn’t a large selection of accessories for the iPhone 4, but cases for the earlier phones were in no short supply.
But the real reason enthusiasts flock to the Store is that it's the only place in the world they can legally buy Apple-brand merchandise. You'll find t-shirts, dress shirts, athletic jerseys, coffee mugs, notepads, water bottles, and more, all sporting that famous fruit logo.
Unfortunately, a lot of that merch doesn’t live up to Apple’s own design standards. The t-shirts are your usual cheap cotton numbers, with only a small logo to distinguish them. Same goes for the mugs and other knick-knacks: they look like generic goods with an Apple sticker slapped on.
Not everything in the store is so unremarkable. The Justin Long fan in me had to suppress a squeal upon finding the blue tee bearing his catchphrase, “Hello I’m a Mac.” Apple enthusiasts will be proud to sport an “I visited the Mothership” shirt.
While I was warned that prices at the Store were inflated, I actually found them to be quite reasonable: A short-sleeved shirt ran about twenty dollars, and sweatshirts were closer to forty. The items on sale were more than fairly priced: baby jumpers with the Apple logo were going for a mere five bucks.
For many of the shoppers at the Apple Company Store, just being on the campus and thinking about the innovation taking place within the nearby walls is probably more interesting than a bag full of Hanes-brand clothing. Tourists arrive by the busload (literally), and their excitement is contagious. I wouldn’t recommend that you plan your next family vacation around a visit to Cupertino. But if you have a beanie-with-an-Apple-logo shaped void in your life, there’s simply no other place to fill it.