Apple Stores’ biggest fan shined a light on the little people

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Gary Allen with his son, Devin, at a Beijing Apple Store in 2008.
Gary Allen with his son, Devin, at a Beijing Apple Store in 2008.
Photo: Devin Allen

Cult of Mac 2.0 bugTim Cook, Jony Ive and Apple’s legendary Steves earned their loyal followings.

Writer Gary Allen made sure the foot soldiers — Apple retail workers and even the carpenters who made display tables for Apple Stores — got props for their contributions to Cupertino by way of Allen’s now-defunct website ifo Apple Store.

In doing so, Allen left his own thankful and devoted followers saddened when he passed away last fall from brain cancer.

Loved a good store opening

Allen was not only seen as the foremost independent authority on the inner workings of the Apple Stores, he was frequently seen talking to the throngs of people at the openings of new stores.

Allen, often traveling with his son, Devin, personally stood in line on the first day of more than 140 store openings around the world.

While Allen became well-known and was considered by some to be Apple’s biggest fan, he preferred to shift the attention to Apple’s unsung heroes, the thousands who made the stores nearly as iconic as the devices they sold.

“I wouldn’t call my dad an extrovert,” said Devin Allen, who traveled to more than 20 openings with his dad and attended others via FaceTime. “He didn’t go to parties or the bar. For the most part, he liked to stay home. But when it came to the Apple Stores, he was really interested in getting to know the people who were passionate. He would calmly walk up to them and just start asking about them. This was never about him.”

Gary Allen saw a void and filled it

Apple ushered in the personal computing era and made a slew of revolutionary devices that captivated millions and made them believe we couldn’t live without an iPhone, iMac or iPod. Dozens of websites actively pursue Apple news to satisfy fan obsessions.

Allen’s interest — the stores — was oddly specific, but his posts on ifo Apple Store about store designs, rumors of where a store would open next, financial information and hiring practices proved to be invaluable to fans and those interested in working at an Apple Store.

The last post from the site came in February 2015, and Allen discontinued the work after he learned of his cancer diagnosis.

Allen’s brother, Jim, said he believed Gary recognized other Apple news was well-covered and saw a need to provide news on the store culture.

“Gary had an early interest in computers, especially Apple,” Jim Allen said. “He wasn’t particularly athletic, so he directed his interests into other things. I remember as a kid, Gary produced a family newsletter that he wrote out and my dad would take it to the office to get mimeographed.”

Father-and-son travels

Devin Allen said his father loved travel, and used the store openings as an excuse to see a new country and bond with his son.

If anything sparked Allen’s interest in Apple Stores, it was his son, according to a “Who Am I” page on the website (archived here).

“Did you ever stand in front of an Apple retail store for two days? I have and it’s an interesting experience,” Gary Allen wrote. “In 2001, my 14-year-old son Devin suggested my first overnighter at the Palo Alto Apple Store and it turned into an amazing social event.

“In the process of attending grand openings, I became fascinated by Apple’s retail initiative, including the stores’ architecture, operation and philosophy. Again at Devin’s suggestion, I created this website to share all the information I had collected about the stores and reports on the grand openings I attended.”

Allen visited several states and 11 of the 15 countries where Apple operates stores, including Italy, Australia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the Netherlands, Germany and China.

For many of the openings, he camped overnight with the fans.

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