Re-imagined Apple Store big hit after reopening at Gardens Mall

4:32 p.m Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 Local
Apple Store at The Gardens Mall to open again December. 16, 2017 after eight months of remodeling. It will be the largest Apple Store in the county. The other two are in Wellington and Boca Raton. Henry Cowles, 6, (left) Tequesta, watches his brother Jonah, 4, play with an iPhone along with their friend Bennett Boykins, 5, Jupiter. They all want iPads, though Henry would prefer the Star Wars iPad. (Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post)

The sleek, rebooted Apple Store at The Gardens Mall reopened to a throng of about 75 people eager to get their tech fix Saturday morning.

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The 8,300-square-foot Apple Store is now the largest in Palm Beach County. Among its biggest fans: the 10 and younger set.

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Patrick Welsh, 6, tested out the Apple TV 4K while his dad, Mike, held Patrick’s iPad protected by an orange case. Before the store closed for eight months to expand, they would visit once a month to check out the toys.

WATCH: Apple store reopens at The Gardens Mall

The robots that users can control with iPhones or iPads were a hit with Patrick, his dad said. They arrived about 9 a.m., as store employees pivoted open the glass panels that serve as doors.

“I didn’t think it would be so packed immediately,” Mike Welsh said. “They needed more space because this place is always crowded, and it seems like they were able to get more space with the change in design.”

Wooden tables and benches, where customers can try out new devices or get help using ones they already own, have replaced the so-called Genius Bar at the front of the store. A giant screen that displays changing art hangs on the wall where the Genius Bar used to be. An Apple employee used it to teach a free class on photo editing Saturday morning.

The phone stations have gone cord-free, and a wider array of Apple watches and wristbands are on display.

Kristen Boykin and her family were at the mall to see Santa when they passed by the Apple Store and discovered that it was back in business. Her five-year-old son, Bennett, was glued to an iPad, and her two-year-old was reluctant to leave behind a Lightning McQueen by Sphero robot race car, she said.

Her husband ordered her a new laptop — an early Christmas present — online instead of driving to the Wellington or Boca Raton store from their Jupiter home while the mall store was under construction, she said.

“We’re happy it is back,” she said. “This is beautiful. It’s so much more open. You can see everything a little better.”

Chris Vertucci, of Palm Beach Gardens, said he and his family almost went to the Wellington store Friday to replace his phone before the AppleCare protection plan ran out, until they saw a sign that night about the reopening.

Enticed by the camera, his mom Esperanza upgraded to the iPhone X while they were at the store replacing his phone Saturday.

Vertucci said he likes the redesign a lot, but he was expecting it to be a little bigger.

“I like how futuristic and open it is. It’s like you went from an iPhone 5 to an iPhone X,” he said.

About one red-shirted employee roamed the store for every customer for the re-opening. A store manager referred a reporter to an Apple media hotline at which no one answered the phone or immediately returned a phone message Saturday.

The cost of the expansion was not immediately available.

Mark and Rhonda Siegel left their home in Fort Lauderdale at 6:50 a.m. to be the first in line at the re-opening. Mark said he wanted to replace an outdated MacBook, and both he and his wife were interested in fitness trackers.

Inspired by their twin daughters devotion to Apple products as they complete medical school, “we’re hooked,” he explained.

“I’m not a real techie person, but I feel like they’re easy for someone like me to use,” Mark Siegel said. “Also, I love their support. Whenever I have a problem, I know they’re there.”

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