Apple’s first store in Greater Boston opened this morning in Cambridge, Ma. at the CambridgeSide Galleria. The new location is Apple’s 27th retail store to open since CEO Steve Jobs announced the company’s retail initiative earlier this year.
Although other stores have opened within a reasonable drive of Boston and Cambridge, this store’s location has proven to be a big draw to the crowd of several hundred who showed up for the opening. Apple’s CambridgeSide Galleria store is the first Apple Store in this region to be easily accessible by public transportation. The mall is a short distance between two subway stops for the MBTA, the mass transit system that serves the Greater Boston area.
The high concentration of universities in the area also helped to draw in crowds; many of the people waiting to get in this morning were either enrolled or employed at local universities.
The first person in line this morning, Al Willis, is an IT staff member of nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Also the head of MIT’s own Mac User Group (MUG), Willis said that his employer is still a strong supporter of the Macintosh — he counts the numbers of Macs used on campus by faculty and staff in the thousands. A Mac user since 1984, Willis arrived at this morning at about 3:30, just to be the first person in line.
Like many long-time Mac users, Willis cited poor experiences at other local computer retailers that carry Macintosh hardware as a strong motivation to see the Apple Store succeed.
“The best thing about having an Apple Store in the area is that we finally have a place where we can ask about Macs and not feel dumb,” said Willis.
Close behind him way Andy Espo of Call Andy!, a Macintosh consulting firm. As an Apple Solution Expert, Espo sees a real synergy between specialists like him at the Apple retail stores. Espo said that businesses like his could really benefit from referrals from the Apple Store. Apple executives and retail store managers have said that developing relationships with local specialists and resellers as an important goal.
The CambridgeSide location is manager David Naff’s first location of his own, but he’s been with Apple since the summer. He opened Apple’s first regional location at the Northshore Mall in nearby Peabody, Ma. and managed it for the first month. He’s also helped to open other regional locations.
“Of all the store openings I’ve been to, I’m most excited about the users in the area — the energy they bring to the store is great,” Naff told MacCentral. “There’s a strong base of really enthusiastic users in the area, at universities and tech-heavy companies, as well as Macintosh user groups.”
Apple’s long-term goal with its retail stores is to appeal both to the entrenched Mac faithful and to the 95 percent who don’t use Macs — PC users and computer neophytes alike. Naff expects his store will win on both counts.
“This mall has a tremendous amount of foot traffic throughout the day. The food court is used by a lot of tech-related companies in the area, so we’re anticipating great crowds,” said Naff.
What does it take to become an Apple Store employee? Naff said that it’s an important mix of technical talent, customer service skill and enthusiasm. Naff added that it’s also important to hire folks with diverse interests — some Apple Store employees have backgrounds in Web design, others in video or graphic design and still others in other areas. Individuals share their knowledge with each other.
“The more diverse our team members can be, the more well rounded we can be down the road,” said Naff.
“With all stores, we have talented teams,” said Naff. Expressing a bit of home-team pride, Naff added with a grin, “I think we’ll find that we have a particularly talented team here. With the heavy concentration of Mac expertise and tech businesses, we’ve pulled together an exceptionally talented team.”