May 19, 2006 3:28 PM PDT

Meet Apple's version of Deadheads

NEW YORK--Rain and thunder didn't deter die-hard Apple Computer fans from gathering in line outside the new Apple store on Fifth Avenue before Friday's grand opening.

Stormy Shippy, 20, traveled 1,550 miles from his home in Dallas and camped out most of Thursday night and all day Friday on Fifth Avenue with about two dozen other people as thunder rumbled and rain fell on the streets of Manhattan. Wrapped in rain gear, plastic tarps and even trash bags, these hard-core fans sat and stood most of the day waiting for the doors on the 32-foot glass cube, which caps the entrance to the subterranean store, to open at 6 p.m. EST.

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Video: In line at the big opening
It's not just the fans who show up, but Mr. Apple himself.

Like Deadheads, the storied fans of the band Grateful Dead, these Apple fans crisscross the country, and even the world, camping out all night to be among the first people to set foot in new Apple stores. Shippy, who recently graduated from the University of North Texas, was the first in line at the London opening back in November 2004.

"I went to London specifically for the opening. I know; it sounds really sad, huh?" he joked. "There's no explanation for why any of us are here this early. People wait outside for concerts or to see celebrities, so why not to see the opening of an Apple store?"

The enthusiasm and heartiness of Apple fans like Shippy is a testament to the cultlike following Apple has established over the years. Back in 2001, when Apple first started opening retail stores around the country, analysts were skeptical that the strategy would work. But Apple's strong marketing and the popularity of the iPod music player and its penetration into the mainstream consumer market have helped make Apple's retail endeavor a great success.

But aside from the bottom-line success of Apple's retail strategy, the Apple stores and grand openings have taken on a life of their own, creating a community of followers. The showy design and architecture of the stores themselves have helped make their openings an event.

Gary Allen, the No. 3 man standing in line alongside Shippy, appears to be the ringleader of the Apple groupies. Allen, 58, has traveled from his home in Berkeley, Calif., to 12 Apple store openings in the past five years. His first store opening was in Palo Alto, Calif., in October 2001.

"I had never really done anything like this before," he said. "My 14-year-old son talked me into it."

A social event

Since that first experience, Allen said, he's gotten hooked. Three years ago he created a Web site to chronicle his Apple store travels. He's been using free Wi-Fi access in the General Motors Plaza on Fifth Avenue to post pictures and updates to his blog.

Through the years, Allen has traveled to openings in Japan and London. And he plans to go to Europe later this year for an Apple store opening in Rome. His son, who's now in college and studying in Spain, may join him for that opening, he said.

For Allen and other people standing in line, such as Monte Nutzman, 55, from West Des Moines, Iowa, coming to Apple store openings is more about meeting people and being part of an event than actually seeing what the inside of the store looks like.

"It's really a social event," Allen said. "There are other Apple enthusiasts here, and it's fun to meet likeminded people. It's also our way to express our support for what all the employees of Apple do."

Nutzman and Allen met at the opening of the Apple store near Union Square in San Francisco in November 2004. Nutzman, who's divorced with two grown sons, said traveling to Apple store openings has become a hobby for him.

He came to New York City back in 2002 for the opening of the Apple store in SoHo. He's also been to openings in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., just outside of Minneapolis, and the store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. He was also the first person in line for the opening of the Apple store in his home town of West Des Moines.

Of course the thrill of seeing Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, also doesn't seem to get old for these Apple fans. Allen and Nutzman, who each had professional-looking cameras hanging from their necks, lined up with dozens of other people on Friday morning as Jobs and several other people walked around the 32-foot glass cube entrance inspecting the workmanship before the grand opening.

"I've seen Steve Jobs at a few of these openings," Allen said. "But it's a real thrill to see him come here and walk around the glass cube, which he supposedly helped design. I think the cube is fantastic. It's designed to attract people to the edge, so they can look down into the store. It's really incredible."

Despite waiting in line for nearly 48 hours, many of the fans won't likely buy anything once they get inside the store. Nutzman said he might buy something small as a keepsake, but Allen and Shippy said they hadn't planned on buying anything. And neither of them expects to win any of the new MacBooks that Apple is giving away every hour for the first 24 hours the store is open.

"I'll buy whatever I need at the store in Texas," Shippy said. "I'm just hoping to get one of the 2,500 T-shirts they are giving away."

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10 comments

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So, _That's_ Where ...
the escapees from the Jonestown massacre and the followers of the Baghwan Rajneesh have been hiding, all this time! The divorced guy with the son had better hope his ex-wife doesn't find out about their activities, or she'll get custody even if she's in jail - this would be slam-dunk evidence of psychotic behavior that's not conducive to the well-being of a minor, that any first-year law school student could prove. Having said that, I do own my very own T-shirt from the opening of the store in Emeryville, CA, from a couple of years ago, but I got there as it was opening, got my T-shirt, signed up for the prizes (and won the privelege of providing some marketing database some pretty hilarious demographic data, if anyone bothered to actually read it), salivated over the new 17-inch PowerBrick, and then exited, Stage Left, rapidly even, to resume my life, already in progress. I will be in the NYC area in July, and will drop in just to see the new store, among a bunch of other things, like visiting my sister.

It looks like there's a cylindrical glass elevator shaft in the middle of the spiral staircase, but no one seems to have noticed and commented on that. It would be really cool if the circular elevator platform (it's actually the floor of the "car") were pushed up on a column of air from below, and I think that would actually be feasible, with big enough fans hidden underneath, but I'm sure that OSHA and a phalanx of lawyers made sure there's at least a hydraulic piston pushing up the enclosed "car" from below. Still a pretty cool elevator, in any case.

Oh, yeah, and I think they're actually supposed to be selling something in the store, but I wouldn't be buying anything there - who can afford NYC and state sales tax?!?

All the Best,
Joe Blow
Posted by Joe Blow (175 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Newsflash
The sales tax in Emeryville, Ca according to CNN 1995 was 8.7%.
NYC sales tax is 8.375%. maybe you should be buying more stuff
here.
Posted by rockinphotognyc (5 comments )
Link Flag
Back then we had Jerry Garcia to hear live
Hey Ipod enthusiasts. We used to listen to music at the same
time as a bunch of other folks. We'd all be within earshot. The
music got each of us, and the effect of all of us feeling the same
thing made for a stronger, more intense feeling of that same
thing.

The Dead were better than you can ever know. Jerry was beyond
gifted.

Them Ipods hold lots of songs, but I have about a thousand
Dead whole shows on tape, and each version of each song is
different.

The Grateful Dead lets you download their entire body of live
work. The recording quality blows away all my tapes. A show
might take up a gigabyte but it's worth it.
Posted by JackfromBerkeley (136 comments )
Reply Link Flag
you sound like my dad (seriously)
my dad is a huge deadhead. his collection includes hundreds of tapes and (more recently) hundreds of cds.

he listens to one everyday. even the ones with crappy audience recordings..

then it grew one me. i'm a big grateful dead fan now. jerry garcia has made incredible music on his own also.
Posted by assman (1101 comments )
Link Flag
Not To Be Confused With Apple's Version of Jehovah's Witnesses -lol
And no, I'm not flying to New York, just to throw stones at Apple'glass house. :-)
Posted by john55440 (1020 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Firsthand accounts?
Okay, let's hear from some of the 1,500 people who were in line
Friday afternoon.
Posted by CBSTV (780 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bitten by the Apple Store
The last time I went to an Apple Store opening, I intended to just
score one of the free tee shirts and enter the drawings. Though I
already owned a two-year old PowerBook G4, I ended up leaving
that Apple Store opening with a brand, spanking new PowerBook
G4. Some of those people dropping by will be dropping bling. It
is a seductive experience.
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Reply Link Flag
True That!!
The last time I went to an Apple store opening it was just for a T-
shirt. I brought my wife along. Let's just say she fell in love with
the 20" iMac and we came home with it. Yes I do think these store
openings cause people to spend money that otherwise would not
have.
Posted by danielwsmithee (433 comments )
Link Flag
Time-lapse photos of opening
Apple has posted time-lapse photos of the first 24 hours of the
store opening taken by a camera outside the store. It's pretty
interesting. The camera starts at 5:00 PM when the store opens
and the line doesn't peter out until around 1:00 AM. Then it
starts up again late the next morning.

Since the photos were posted as they occurred during the 24
hour period, there were more than a few 'posers' who went down
to stand around in front of the camera. One fellow even used the
camera to make a marriage proposal by holding up signs (just
after sun-up around 5:30 AM). Best of luck to him!

To stop the action, just click on the photo. To start it up again,
double-click.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.apple.com/retail/fifthavenue/" target="_newWindow">http://www.apple.com/retail/fifthavenue/</a>

JPL
Posted by James P. Larsen (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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