The Practical Mac

Independent Mac Retailing Done Right

- 2003.02.25 - Tip Jar

I recently had the pleasure of going to Nashville on a business trip. I had heard about a local Mac retailer, MacAuthority, and decided to pay them a visit. I came away not only impressed, but also with a definite sense of how independent Mac retailers can not only survive but thrive.

MacAuthority is conveniently located near I-65 (click on the "Photos" link on their home page for some pictures of just how convenient their location is to I-65), just south of downtown Nashville. If you pay them a visit, be aware that the store is surrounded by a predominantly residential neighborhood. However, you can't miss the signs on I-65. After you exit, the store is only a few hundred yards away, and the single turn you have to make is clearly marked with a "MacAuthority" sign.

The Store

I visited them on a Saturday, and the parking lot was just about full with a dozen or so cars. They had at least four employees in the store, and everyone stayed busy for the 1-1/2 hours or so I was looking around. I was able to get a few minutes of time to speak with the store manager, Clay Cooper. Mr. Cooper was gracious enough to let me take a few pictures, which we are able to share with our readers today.

The first thing you notice when you walk in the door is that the store looks successful. There are boxes of PowerMacs, iBooks, printers, eMacs, iMacs, etc. stacked in creative arrangements all around the sales floor. This is a good-looking, well-kept store.

Geniuis Bar

There are plenty of Macs available for taking a test drive. MacAuthority has their very own version of the Genius Bar in the back right corner of the store, exactly where you would expect it if you had ever visited one of those "other" Apple stores.

They have software galore, and more peripherals and accessories than I even knew existed. Unlike so many disappointing independent retailers I have visited, I would wager that there were very few items I could have requested that this store would had to have ordered. Just about anything the consumer would want was available for immediate purchase. To test my theory, I was tempted to ask for an Xserve, but I decided against it.

MacAuthority is not located in just any old city. This is Nashville - Music City. In a nod to their locale, MacAuthority carries anything and everything the aspiring musician could want, both hardware and software. During my visit, I eavesdropped on one employee who was obviously extremely knowledgeable about all things musical on the Mac. In fact, the knowledge displayed by all of the employees in their interaction with customers was refreshing. These people know and love the Mac.

Mac Museum

Lisa 2Macintosh TV20th Anniversary Mac
MacAuthority has a veritable Mac museum on top of the display cases lining the outer edge of the store. They have an impressive collection of Apple computers ranging from the Apple II through the slot-loading "fruit" iMacs. In fact, I had my very first face-to-Mac encounter with a Macintosh TV and a Lisa (although it may have been a Lisa 2 or Mac XL, I'm not sure - remember, I've never seen one in person before). You know this is a serious collection when it contains a mint-condition Twentieth Anniversary Mac.

An interesting side exhibit is a wall display tracing the evolution of the Mac motherboard from the original Mac through the introduction of the G3. If you had never seen the inside of a computer before, even a novice could guess which was the more powerful processor just by seeing the G3 side by side with a 68000.

I have read several stories recently predicting the demise of the independent Mac retailer. At the risk of sounding overly Dvorak-like, most of them deserve to die. All too often they are Mac History Posterfound in small, hole-in-the-wall storefronts in dilapidated strip malls. You can walk in and buy anything you want - as long as you don't mind waiting two weeks for it to come in. The one thing you can always find in plentiful supply is every System 7 compatible game ever created.

I once visited a Mac store less than 30 minutes from Cupertino. I called the store three times for directions, sure I was lost. The place they kept telling me to turn into was clearly a professional building, not a retail establishment. I finally relented and followed the directions I was given to the letter. Sure enough, right there between the dentist and the insurance salesman was the Mac store. The entrance faced an interior corridor, and you had to park around back. To this day, there is not a single sign there.

About 10 years ago, I was living in Raleigh, North Carolina, and was in the market for a Mac. I visited every major Mac retailer in the area and was told they would have to order it. It did not matter what I wanted - they would have to order it. I finally gave up, went to Sears, and bought a new Mac.

The Sears experiment may not have been the most successful chapter in Apple's history, but at least Sears kept product in stock.

MacAuthority does not bear even a family resemblance to the Apple retail stores of my nightmares. Instead, when you walk into MacAuthority, you could just as easily imagine you were in an Apple Store (one of the company operated ones) or Micro Center. Check out the website and read what they are doing to promote the Mac and wireless Internet access around Nashville.

This store is a credit to the "Think Different" legacy of Apple.

If you are an independent Apple retailer and want to know what you need to do to succeed, the answer is easier than you ever imagined. Take a trip to Nashville, visit MacAuthority, go back to your store, and do exactly what they are doing. LEM

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or Google+, or subscribe to our RSS news feed

Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

Today's Links

Recent Content

About LEM Support Usage Privacy Contact

Follow Low End Mac on Twitter
Join Low End Mac on Facebook

Favorite Sites

Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
The Vintage Mac Museum
Deal Brothers
Mac Driver Museum
JAG's House
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ

The iTunes Store
PC Connection Express
Macgo Blu-ray Player
Parallels Desktop for Mac

Low End Mac's store


Open Link