Shrouded in black and still largely hidden from view by barricades, the sleek new Apple Store in downtown Palo Alto will open Saturday, Oct. 27, at 10 a.m., company officials have announced.
The relatively late announcement leaves little time for hype prior to its opening, save for an email sent to Apple users and a brief mention on the company's website.
But the new 16,600-square-foot, two-story building at 340 University Ave. is designed to be inviting, with a clear-glass facade framed by stone-paneled vertical columns so passing shoppers can see what is happening inside. It will have new product displays, more training and workshop sections and an enlarged Genius Bar to help customers, according to a company announcement.
The new Apple isn't falling far from the tree. It is situated two blocks west and across the street from its predecessor at the seismically unsafe 451 University Ave.
Excitement is growing among Apple aficionados and its ever-expanding base of regular folks. Over at the Apple Store at Stanford Shopping Center on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 20-something Jason Lee surfed the Internet from his iPhone.
"Any Apple Store that opens, people will be trying to get there. The stores are always crowded. It's real exciting," he said.
It was controlled chaos at the Stanford Apple, which some call the "Apple store Mini," where a dozen employees in royal-blue polo shirts helped customers who had trouble not bumping into each other.
Henriette Langdon, a San Jose State University professor, waited outside for her appointment to learn more about her new MacBook Air laptop. She said the new downtown Palo Alto store would be a welcome improvement if it offers more space and a larger Genius Bar with faster customer service.
"Having a larger store will certainly improve on the backlog, especially with the holidays coming up," she said. "I need a human being to interact with. ... Those of us who are a little older need the personal touch."
Back at the current downtown store, Christine Bullock said she hopes for a bigger Genius Bar.
"It's always super busy," she said.
Construction of the new Apple building has been entertaining to watch, she said, with its sleek front all done up in black to obscure what awaits inside.
An Apple spokeswoman offered no glimpse of what customers will find when the new store opens, other than to invite the public and reporters to come to the unveiling. There will be a commemorative T-shirt giveaway to the first 1,000 attendees, the company announced.
"It's Applesque to hide it to the last second," said Fred Balin, a Palo Alto resident and former employee and member of the Apple Consultants Network certified by the company. He still has the commemorative T-shirt Apple gave out when the first Palo Alto store opened in 2001, he said.
"The concept of the retail stores was genius. A bricks-and-mortar store in the Internet age?" he said.
The retail chain has grown to about 380 locations in 13 countries, according to Apple.
Given Apple's growth since the first downtown store opened and its transformation from a computer company to a consumer-products megalith, Balin said he expects the new store will be "a reboot of the operating system" for its retail chain. He noted the company's been using the word "prototype" to describe the store.
"That seems to indicate it will be different," he said. He predicts there could be a presentation area to demonstrate the products.
But, he added, "I'll miss the store (downtown) that is there now. I have some very good memories."
The new store was designed when the late co-founder Steve Jobs was still alive, Balin said.
"You can never really outguess what he was thinking. It's hard to think of them changing things around" since Jobs died in October 2011, he said.
Balin ran into Jobs at the precursor to the Apple Store, ComputerWare, which was a chain that sold only Apple products. Before Jobs returned to Apple in the late 1990s, Balin recalled seeing him purchase an educational program at the store.
"He must've thought to himself, 'I can do this so much better.' And of course, he did."
In addition to the downtown location, a 12,100-square-foot Apple Store is planned for Stanford Shopping Center, located near Neiman Marcus. It will be nearly 23 feet tall in a single story and features a tall glass cube with an overhang, as reported in the Palo Alto Weekly's Shop Talk column in May. Construction is currently in the steel-girders phase.