The surprising genius of one of Apple’s dorkiest ideas ever

“The year was 1996,” Mark Wilson reports for Fast Company. “Apple wasn’t doing well, suffering through the awkward years between the Mac and the iPod. Jobs would return officially in 1997, but in the meantime, Apple was contemplating how to make some fast cash by licensing its name. In this gap leading to its renaissance, Apple considered a concept that feels wild, yet, in retrospect, almost inevitable: the Apple Cafe.”

“It wasn’t an Apple store you’d recognize today, nor was it even designed by Apple,” Wilson reports. “The Apple Cafe, uncovered again recently by Armin Vit, was a retro-future diner with neon lighting and computers at every table. Like a Planet Hollywood born from Cupertino’s womb, you could teleconference with the next booth over, or order a meal with an Apple computer, all from a cafe that looked like the Back to the Future 2 backlot.”

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, this whimsical vision was brought to life by ex-Disney talent,” Wilson reports. “In a recent call with Co.Design, [former Disney Imagineer Tony] Christopher recounted the development behind the Apple Cafe, which, though it went down in history as Apple’s forgotten attempt to make a quick buck, may have been foundational for the Apple Store itself. And he shared the images you see here—many of which seem to have never been released before.

Read more – and see the renderings of the Apple Cafe – in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Very cool — and, yes, dorky — concept that Jobs reportedly liked, but put on hold as he already had the seed of idea for the Apple Store when he returned to Apple as iCEO.

See also: The Apple Store That Almost Was.


  1. The new Apple Store in Liverpool, UK is really stale. It’s the new design and layout and it just seems really corporate and boring. It’s moved into a bigger space and they’ve removed the first floor so it’s a giant open space… but all painted white with nothing but products and an enormous display at the back (which is pretty damn cool).

    Some really cool hand drawn art on the walls and roof would be awesome. They could get local artists from each location to do the store where they live. Make each store personal.

    1. I have to remember that in some countries the first floor is not the ‘ground’ floor. The initial image I got from reading the above was a room with a staircase down a floor and open to the ceiling of the floor above the ‘ground’ floor.

  2. Yeah me too at the Northridge, CA store way back when. The Apple Store at the beginning did have a little more community feel and it was fun sharing & enjoying Keynotes with other like-minded people. Well, back when the emphasis wasn’t so much iPhone.

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