Grand opening of Apple store attracts local fans

Jeffrey Joh/Staff

Apple Inc. fans and customers flocked to West Berkeley on Saturday to witness the unveiling of the company’s new store on Fourth Street.

Nearly 300 people waited throughout the morning to enter the East Bay’s fourth Apple store location at 1823 Fourth Street — some even arriving at midnight the night before — for the grand opening at 10 a.m. Employees inside welcomed the wave of customers with cheers, high fives and free t-shirts for the first 1,000 customers.

Demauriae Burris, a recent Berkeley High School graduate, was first in line after camping out in front of the store with his mother and cousin the night before the opening.

“It’s good to have one so close now,” Burris said. “This store is a lot easier to get to than the ones in Emeryville and San Francisco where it’s so crowded.”

Passersby stopped outside to snap pictures of the brand new store, and the nearby Peet’s Coffee & Tea offered free beverages to those waiting in line.

The store presents a convenient customer service option for college students who use Apple products. UC Berkeley junior Amanda Lim arrived around 9 a.m. to wait in line after hearing about the opening through an email from the company. She owns several Apple products and brought her MacBook along just in case she had any questions.

Inside the store, several stations allowed customers to test out the entire range of Apple products — from MacBooks to iPods and iPads.

UC Berkeley engineering professor Bernt Wahl was on site Saturday taking pictures. According to Wahl, who is working on a book about Silicon Valley’s technological history, UC Berkeley played an important role in creating the computer technology Apple uses today.

“It’s something we should be really proud of here. A lot of technology came out of Berkeley,” Wahl said.

Leland Thompson, Apple market leader for the East Bay, spoke at length about the store’s various features and programs aimed at educating Apple users. Thompson also pointed out the store’s Genius Bars, where employees offer face-to-face advice for any questions or concerns customers may have. According to Thompson, Apple store Genius Bars receive about 50,000 customers daily worldwide.

He said the store will also host a number of community programs, including summer camps where younger children can learn multimedia skills and regular evening events for older children to come in and show off projects they create on Apple products to family and friends right in the store.

Thompson said Fourth Street is an ideal location for the East Bay’s newest Apple store, and the response from the surrounding neighborhood has been very positive.

“It’s really nice to have a store in a community that you can become a part of,” Thompson said. He added that not only do Apple stores bring a strong sense of community to the area, they also bring in plenty of foot traffic.

Berkeley City Councilmember Linda Maio, whose district includes the location, said she believes that the company chose Fourth Street because it is already a vibrant shopping area. She added that the new store will add to the diversity in the area and likely bring in more customers.

“I do know people prefer walkable retail areas more than malls,” she said. “Berkeley has preserved its outdoor shopping areas, and I think that’s why Berkeley is faring relatively well in comparison to some other places.”