Exhilarated New Haven residents and Yalies gathered en masse for the opening of New Haven’s first Apple store on Broadway Saturday morning.
The 10 a.m. opening drew a line that took over an hour to clear, snaking around the block to Payne Whitney Gymnasium. With security and other media personnel watching, customers in groups of five were allowed to run inside to the cheers of blue-clad Apple employees. Though only seven of 40 people interviewed at the event said they intended to make a purchase — eager only to try out the new products on display — nearby business proprietors and local politicians said the tech giant’s arrival in the Elm City will be a boon for the downtown economy.
“I think [the Apple Store opening] is the greatest event New Haven has seen in many moons,” said Barry Cobden, owner of Campus Customs, a neighbor to the new Apple Store. “There is not a merchant in New Haven that cannot benefit from this opening, it just changes the whole perspective of why someone would want to come to New Haven and shop.”
The new outlet replaced the former east-wing of the Yale Bookstore and cost $4.87 million to construct, according to building permits at City Hall. In February, the News reported that an Apple Store would be coming to the site, but it took the typically tight-lipped Apple until Tuesday to make the official announcement on the company’s website, despite multiple-job postings and filed building permits attributed to “Yale-Apple.”
Abigail Rider, the director of University Properties, deferred to Apple’s media relations team for details on the company’s arrival in the Elm City. But both the store manager and Apple spokesperson Nick Leahy declined to comment beyond the official announcement of the store’s opening.
Ward 22 Alderman Greg Morehead, who was on hand at the opening to present the store manager with an official citation from City Hall, said aldermen and University Properties had been seeking an occupant for the site since 2008.
“This is going to definitely strengthen the tax base for our city and help out our economy,” he said, adding this might help alleviate the budget woes City Hall has faced in recent years.
His sentiment was shared by a Yale Bookstore employee, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not allowed to speak to media. The Apple Store will “of course bring more foot traffic” to the downtown area, which will likely also boost business at nearby stores, the employee said.
These considerations, however, were barely on the minds of those in line Sunday morning.
At the front of the line was Herbie J. Zampano, a Branford resident who said he had been camping in front of the Yale Bookstore since Tuesday afternoon, despite being moved several times due to construction work.
When asked what brought him out to the store so early, he said he “liked to collect T-shirts” and would most likely purchase a phone or a computer, both of which he currently lacks. The first thousand people to go into the new store receive black tee-shirts with an Apple logo and “New Haven” printed on them.
“I am here to be a part of the festivities,” he said. “I was accidentally at the grand opening of an Apple Store in New York, and while this is smaller and different, this is just as impressive.”
Still, not everyone at the store was there to make a purchase. The third person in line, 14-year-old Dominic Consigilio from East Haven, said he had arrived at 6 a.m. and “just wanted to come look at [the store].”
Of nine Yalies interviewed, all said they would rather buy Apple products from the online store rather than the campus store, though several indicated they might purchase accessories.
Jaime de Leon ’14, who came to the store because he “heard there would be raffles,” said he would probably still rather shop online because of greater customization options.
Meanwhile, Nick Sas ’14 said although shopping at the store was not as convenient as shopping online, the in-store “Genius Bar,” which handles technical support issues, would be “invaluable.” He added he already has a Monday afternoon appointment scheduled to repair his iPhone’s on-off button.
The Apple Store might see more traffic in coming months as the company launches its iPhone 5. AllThingsD, an online publication of the Wall Street Journal, reported last Wednesday that Oct. 4 has been selected by the company to showcase its newest product.
In the meantime, the Apple Store will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The outlet is Apple’s fifth in Connecticut; previously, the closest store to Yale’s campus was in Danbury, 40 miles away.
Correction: September 27, 2011
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that “customers in groups of give were allowed to run into the store.” In fact, customers entered in small groups controlled by on-site security.