Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Closure of Tekserve and the Purging of Wozniakism

Jon Kalish, whose voice you surely know from his years of great NPR reporting, wrote a heartfelt piece for PC Magazine on the very sad news of the closing of Tekserve, Chelsea's legendary Apple repair shop (turned retail juggernaut).

As you'll glean from Kalish's article, Tekserve was an apotheosis of quirkiness, and also a pioneer in enlightened retailing practices. The two strands made the place irresistible for its many loyal customers (I was one for 26 years).

Tekserve also represented an alternative vision for the direction Apple might have taken when it jumped into retail in 2001. But Jobs, and then Cook, chose the other way. Sterile slickness rather than quirkiness, and grinding treatment of employees rather than enlightened practice.

No Apple Store I ever saw ever had a porch swing, or an antique Coke machine selling the good, old-school, thick-glass small bottles for a dime.


The Competition

What killed Tekserve was Apple. Corporations must either grow or die, and when Apple got into retailing, the writing was on the wall. Even before this, Apple was puzzlingly unfriendly to its largest presence/godsend/cheerleader/ambassador, even during the dark Steveless years when Apple's hardware was lousy, its vision muddled, and Tekserve served almost single-handedly to maintain morale and keep the faith in this part of the country. But once the Apple Stores opened, blood was in the water. Tekserve was methodically taken down.

Wozniak and Jobs was one of those odd partnerships that ignited, ala Lennon and McCartney. The warm, goofy inventor and the fastidious, arrogant schemer. Both strands were palpable in the corporate mix for an awfully long time. But Apple has spent the past forty years purging its Wozniak DNA, especially when the reigns passed to Tim Cook, the firm's most un-Wozniakian figure. While an independent operation, Tekserve was nonetheless viewed by many of us as inseparable from the greater Apple ecosystem. So the day Tekserve died marked the moment that the last iota of fun, quirk, character, and warmth was cleansed from the brand, leaving an unsullied dystopian impression of shiny white sterility.

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