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It was raining cats and dogs last Saturday, but that didn’t stop people from coming out for Apples. While the rest of Saddle Creek snoozed through the deluge, the grand opening of the Apple computer store was awash with potential customers and hard-core Apple users. Exuding a palpable buzz, people wander around the stylish white counters taking digital photos and posting them on the Internet, talking to the Mac experts at the futuristic-looking Genius bar, and looking at the store’s 600 software titles. Some of them, like one couple from downtown Memphis, just came in to pick up the latest upgrade in the Mac OS X operating system and check it all out. Others came because they love Macs. Mark McClellan is the senior PR manager of corporate communications for the company. He says the various Apple store grand openings, which have drawn anywhere from 300 to 1,500 people, remind him of interactive theme parks. “There doesn’t seem to be as much passion for the other system,” says McClellan of IBM and IBM-compatible PCs. Apple has only 5 percent of the market share in personal computers, but their users seem at least 95 percent more devoted. Before the store opened, about 50 people huddled under umbrellas outside in the rain. Later, the store employees -- all of whom are dressed in black T-shirts with a white Apple logo -- are mirrored by a number of customers also wearing various Apple T-shirts. Some of the shirts, like one with Apple’s early rainbow logo on it, seem to have been dug out of the backs of closets, while others, decorated with candy-colored iMacs, are from a different generation altogether. “We’re on the forefront of the graphic and creative arts,” says McClellan as way of explanation. “That type of person tends to be more enthusiastic about their interests.” Scott Blasl is one such devotee. At the store’s mini-theater, he is watching a demonstration on Mac functions, from how to edit digital movies to posting digicam photos on a Web page. Although he’s not sporting any Apple wear, he was the first one in line when the store opened. “Having read about prior openings around the country, I wanted to take part in this event,” Blasl says above the store’s din. To make sure he did, the Beaver Springs, Arkansas, resident drove the 150 miles to Memphis the night before. He arrived at Saddle Creek at 3:30 a.m., six and a half hours before the store was scheduled to open. Asked what he thinks of the store, he grins and says it’s great. The company had problems earlier this year with Germantown’s sign ordinance, which says that food cannot be featured nor can signs be lit from within. McClellan says the company worked with Germantown to come to a consensus on the sign issue, ending up with no interior-lumination signs. “We want to be good neighbors,” says McClellan. The Saddle Creek location is the 11th Apple store in the country; the company expects to have 25 by the end of the year.

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