Any lingering doubts about an Apple Store opening in Madison were swept aside last month. The front of a retail space in the north wing of West Towne Mall, situated between a Williams-Sonoma on one side and a Coldwater Creek on the other, was fitted with a floor to ceiling wall sporting the company's apple logo and URL. "The sign on the door says simply, 'Coming soon,'" wrote a phone-wielding shopper back on Apr. 24.
As seen on the mall map for West Towne, this space (C-20) is right around the corner from the food court along the central spine of the shopping center.
Word of an Apple Store opening in Madison first arrived at the beginning of March, when the company posted multiple online job listings for a planned outlet at the mall. There was no official word from Apple itself, which tries to maintain tight control over publicity when it comes to the opening of new stores. Likewise, there were no confirming job listings provided by West Towne.
This has changed, though, as the west side mall's online job opportunities page is currently listing five positions: Mac Genius, Creative, Inventory Control Specialist, Mac Specialist, and Store Management. Taking both the photo of the "coming soon" storefront and these listings together, it's clear that Apple will be opening a retail outlet here soon.
When, though? The answer to this question isn't clear. A West Towne customer service representative says that the mall does not have a set opening date for the store. Corporate relations vice president Deborah Gibb at CBL & Associate Properties, Inc. -- the Tennessee-based owner of the mall -- is referring questions regarding the opening to Apple. The Apple Retail Recruiter responsible for the Madison location, meanwhile, declined to comment and referred questions to a spokesperson.
"We've made no announcement regarding a store at that location," says Amy Barney, the Apple public relations spokesperson for its retail operations.
So... no info there. That doesn't mean a guess at the opening date isn't possible, though.
There's one person who claimed in a Digg submission that the Apple Store at West Towne would be opening on July 7, with similar claims made in a comment on an item on a blog devoted to Apple retail operations, where word of the Madison outlet was originally broken. These suggestions may mean little or nothing, but a date of July 7 makes a certain amount of sense. 07/07/07 is already primed for plenty of commercial hoopla, with local events that Saturday including a mass wedding at Dejope Gaming and a drawing for seven months of free rent at the Steve Brown-owned Lucky development at 777 University Avenue. The rest of the world, meanwhile, is set to host seven concerts on seven continents as part of Live Earth, the kick-off to a climate change campaign led by Al Gore. It's an auspicious date, one that could serve well for an Apple Store grand opening complete with overnight lines and free t-shirts. It very well may not, though, and should be read simply as a guess.
One person willing to talk about the store is Jonathan Neese, co-owner of The MacShop (and The iShop), which provides Apple-authorized services and sales on Odana Road. "It was just a matter of time until an Apple Store opened in Madison," he says. "It's something we had planned for since we opened."
Neese says he wants to complement the new Apple Store, and ultimately work with it through customer referrals after learning about the experiences of other Apple resellers across the country.
Nevertheless, Neese emphasizes that his business is locally owned and can offer personal relationships with customers due to its long-term staff retention. "There are definitely some things we offer," he says, "and as a small locally-owned business, we can react within the local environment." Neese points to a pair of recycling and trade-in programs the MacShop is launching for mp3 players and computers as an example, in which the former can by dropped off for recycling or trade-in for an iPod, and the latter can be traded-in for purrchasing a new Mac.
"We don't see this as being a negative for us at all," Neese concludes about the opening, "we see it as a positive as it's definitely going to expand the market share and awareness of the Apple brand."