A line that started forming at midnight stretched around the block by 9 a.m./Photo: Lance Knobel

Nita Burris from Vallejo got in line at midnight. At 3 a.m., James Neal from Pleasanton joined her on Fourth Street. By 8 a.m. this morning, there were a couple of hundred fans queuing happily for the opening of the world’s 339th Apple Store, on Fourth Street in Berkeley.

If you have to ask why they were there, and why the numbers swelled steadily as the 10 a.m. opening approached, you clearly don’t understand Applemania.

“Why wouldn’t you want a free T-shirt?” asked Neal, who works in the Apple Store in Pleasanton, but still thought it was worth a 3 a.m. start. The first 1,000 customers today received a special Fourth Street-edition T-shirt.

“It’s a new store,” said Judy Tsang from Oakland. “We have to support Apple.” Tsang read about the store’s planned opening on Berkeleyside and said she’d been doing a Google search about it every day since the beginning of August.

Positively Fourth Street. The coveted Apple T-shirt

When they finally were able to get into the sanctum sanctorum, the eager Apple folk found what they have come to expect in every other Apple Store, except newer and shinier. The store has more than 50 employees, the majority from Berkeley and surrounding cities, but the numbers were boosted by workers from other Bay Area Apple Stores for the opening. Certainly a swarm of very pumped up employees — clapping and cheering each other at regular intervals — was massing in their distinctive blue shirts.

“We’re really excited about letting our first customers in,” said Leland Thompson, market leader for the East Bay market. He enthused about the long Genius Bar at the back of the store and invited the media present for the morning preview to try to stump Apple’s “geniuses”. The offer was spurned by all present.

Fourth Street was one of three Apple Store openings today. The other two were in Basingstoke, near London, and in Leganés, near Madrid.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...