It all started in 1941. Maury and Betty Zuckman opened a little radio repair shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1977 a brand new company named Apple Computer struck its first ever dealership agreement for sales of the Apple II with the then-named Team Electronics. By 1987 FirstTech, which switched names two years before, dropped sales of stereo equipment in favor of becoming a full time Apple dealer. Now, on March 29, 2014, FirstTech’s doors have closed forever. A victim of increasing pressure from national retailers and service providers. 37 years as an Apple Specialist, 73 in total, was a pretty darn good run.
Employees old and current, and many long time well wishers, descended on the store on this day, the final day of the going out of business sale. The atmosphere was electric. A mix of bargain hunting, old friends reconnecting and exchanging stories, and lamenting the loss of a piece of history. It was surreal. A strange mix of funeral, high school reunion, and trading floor frenzy.
I was with FirstTech for 20 years. The morning of my first day a group of techs placed a just released PowerBook 540c on my still empty desk, disassembled it, and left for their service calls. I had to figure out how to put it back together. That was my initiation to the family, and it truly is a family.
All afternoon and into the evening stories were swapped, contact information updated, and laughter, tears, and hugs exchanged. A common theme of conversation was family. We all got married together, had kids together, and got through troubled times together. We lived and laughed and loved together, and now cried together. Many former employees expressed that it was the one job they truly missed. Because it was family.
After the store’s final closing we gathered in the banquet room of next door neighbor Green Mill one last time, the site of many all staff meetings. The conversation continued with food and drink, and many photos taken over the years. One former employee even managed to make a brief appearance via FaceTime from South Korea.
At the end of the evening the owners paused to thank everyone for coming and for all their service over the years. The promise of a summer picnic was made to gather together again. Thanks were returned by staff former and current, for providing a fun and challenging place to work and an asset to the community.
It’s not just a piece of history that was lost today. There’s now a hole in the fabric of the Apple community – not just in Minnesota, but also worldwide. News of the closure spread across the globe when it was announced on March 19th. Everything from tech web sites and local newspapers, podcasts such as Daily Tech News Show and MacBreak Weekly, to TIME magazine’s web site and websites throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia.
It seems that the model of providing high quality service from a locally owned business that is dedicated to the betterment of the community is no longer financially viable. In its place is mass appeal at the lowest possible price with more limited services from businesses that do not reside in their communities. It is a sad day indeed.