The near-messianic fervor of Apple product fans was on full display Saturday in one of Silicon Valley"s most glamorous malls, even though there were no new gadgets for sale at the reopened retail store and there is growing skepticism among industry-watchers about the company"s ability to continue to innovate.
But that did not stop Bay Area stalwarts from spending hours in line in the hot morning sun to be first through the glass and stainless steel gates of the mammoth Stanford Shopping Center storefront.
"It didn"t take much. I got here at 5:30 a.m.," said Santa Cruz resident Taylor Barcroft, 66, who arrived with his iPhone, iPad and iPod and eagerly awaited his free T-shirt.
imminent," deadpanned the instructor at Santa Cruz"s Senior Computing Center. "So all I got left is to buy devices."
Apple"s latest retail store in the tony mall replaced its more cramped quarters, which had opened in 2004, with a behemoth showcase that is seven times its previous size.
"Genius Bars," where customers receive advice and product service from retail staffers with elevated titles, are now 360 degrees, an Apple spokesman said. He was not permitted to give his name (or the precise square footage of the new store), but he did describe the sweeping expanse of floor space beneath a glass ceiling as a vastly improved setting to "sit side-by-side with your genius to get a more personal or intimate way to work with your genius."
The new store opened at 10 a.m. Saturday to the delight of customers, several of whom had unsuccessfully attempted to camp out overnight, against shopping center rules.
The eager masses were let in after more than 100 blue T-shirt-clad Apple employees ran around the store screaming madly, wiggling their fingers in the air and planting high-fives on the hundreds applauding in line.
Once inside, 2-year-olds sat themselves in front of a "Kids Table" iPad station, and hordes
A crowd gathers before the opening of the redesigned Apple Store, at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group) ( LiPo Ching )
of shoppers teamed around walls of accessories allowing product use from home, vehicle, airport and wilderness.
Apple is expected to unveil a pair of new iPhones on Tuesday, but some analysts are skeptical the product launch will be a blockbuster like previous ones.
Still, loyalists like Lily San Agustin, of San Mateo, have no doubts.
San Agustin was chased off by security for trying to sleep in line Friday night in a folding chair alongside her 25-year-old son but she simply came back at 5:45 a.m. Saturday. Matthew San Agustin joined his mom to relive the glory he experienced seven years ago in New York City, when he waited with thousands of others in the pouring rain for the Fifth Avenue Apple store to open.
The San Agustins had no plans to buy anything Saturday. They just wanted to revel.
"I love Apple," Lily said, fingering a gold, rhinestone-studded iPhone case around her neck. "I"m not so technological," but Apple products are "so user-friendly and so colorful."