By Niclas Ericsson
The Apple store that will open on Fourth Street later this year is welcomed by neighboring merchants, who are hoping it will bring more shoppers to the area. They hope it might boost the number of male customers especially, as the current selection of Fourth Street stores has more to offer female customers. The only niggling issue may be parking, said to the merchants.
“The whole street will benefit from it financially,” said Manfred Kroening, co-owner with his wife, Betty, of Bette’s Oceanview Diner of the Apple store that is being built at 1823 Fourth Street, just a stone’s throw away from the restaurant.
“The street hasn’t recovered from the downturn in the economy yet. Especially during the week, businesses are suffering,” he said.
Kroening said he had heard estimates that up to 500 people a day will visit the Apple store. He is hoping that the take-out place that the Kroenings run next to the diner, Bette’s To Go, will benefit from the increased influx of people. As for the diner, more visitors to the area will make less of a difference, he said.
“The restaurant is full most of the time anyway, and it’s an attraction in itself,” said Kroening. He added that parking might become a problem, however.
There are three parking lots along Fourth Street that offer free parking to shoppers, but, especially on weekends, they can become full. Kroening said he has seen customers go elsewhere when they cannot find a spot to park.
As well as the free parking, there is metered parking along Fourth Street and on neighboring streets. There is also a commercial parking lot on Fourth Street and Hearst Avenue, opposite Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto. But, according to several merchants Berkeleyside talked to, many visitors are reluctant to pay for parking. On the Saturday Berkeleyside visited the area, the commercial parking space was half empty, while cars where circling the free parking lots waiting for a spot to open up.
George Kiskaddon who runs Builders Booksource at 1817 Fourth Street, together with his wife Sally, is uncertain of what the Apple store will mean in terms of business.
“Are Apple buyers going to shop on Fourth Street? We don’t know,” he said. He recounted a recent visit he made to the Apple store in Corte Madera. According to Kiskaddon, the Apple store was full of people — while the rest of the mall was empty.
“But [Apple] is going to bring more people to the street, and that’s great,” he said.
Builders Booksource is located directly next door to the new Apple store. Kiskaddon said he will be adding more books on graphic design and computer-aided design to his inventory in order to adjust to the new shopping crowd.
“We’re trying to anticipate what somebody that buys a Mac is going to be looking for,” he said.
At home-design store The Gardener, which faces the Apple construction site, the staff welcomed the new store — but again worried about parking.
“It’s difficult now and it’s going to be more difficult,” said staff member Gary Cliff.
Lynn Wadyka, the manager at The Gardener, said a positive outcome would be if the Apple store attracts more male shoppers to the area.
“There are a lot of clothing and make-up stores — it’s very geared towards women,” she said about the current selection of stores on Fourth Street.
Kiskaddon at Builders Booksource and the staff at The Gardener have another reason to look forward to the opening of the Apple store. The construction phase has been very noisy, they said.
“It’s always annoying being in a construction zone,” said Kiskaddon.
Although Apple has not confirmed that it is opening a store on Fourth Street, let alone when, talk on the street is that it may be completed as early as July 22.
Update, 3:45pm: On Tuesday, an Apple spokesperson returned Berkeleyside’s call. “We have made no announcement about a store in that location,” she said. When asked how long in advance Apple normally announces the opening of a new store, the spokesperson did not want to comment.
Niclas Ericsson is a columnist, novelist and freelance journalist reporting from the Bay Area for several Swedish media. He is currently interning at Berkeleyside.
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