The Apple Store That Almost Was

Before there was the Apple Store that we know and love today, there was the Apple Cafe — well, almost. On November 12, 1996, Apple announced plans to open a chain of cybercafes around the globe. State-of-the-art, even by today’s standards, Apple Cafes promised health-conscious food (served up via a high-tech ordering system), video conferencing with neighboring diners, and on-demand access of movies and music videos. A screenshot from an old promo gives us a few clues as to how some of this might have worked.

On November 11, 1996, one day before the official announcement, Landmark Entertainment Group artists finished painting interior and exterior renderings — beauty shots — of the proposed first Apple Cafe in its Los Angeles location. Small sections and tiny black and white copies of these renderings can be found online and in the book “Apple Confidential 2.0” (page 272). The actual paintings, though, which are in my personal collection, are breathtaking — and I’d like to share them with you as best I can.

Apple Cafe ExteriorApple Cafe Interior
(© Landmark Entertainment Group. All rights reserved.)

Sadly, Apple was in poor financial shape in 1996, and the licensee pulled out before that first Apple Cafe was opened. But the Apple Cafe still lives on for us in these fascinating images.

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Comments
  1. The second pic looks remarkably like the inside of the Metrion.

  2. Looks like 50′s SciFi. Very cool looking interior.

  3. Still a nice idea to have a drink while getting your tech answers or buy stuff from them….. but maybe to geeky to socialize over a computer screen

  4. @sidje…it happens at the Genius Bar all the time already.

  5. Both shots have strong resemblence to the Metreon. General layout of the exterior and if you note the detail signage at far right, it’s a little reminiscent of the Metreon sign/logo. I wonder about the connection between artists/architects. Odd that Sony/Microsoft wound up going into the Metreon and then the whole thing plotzed. I think last I read, they’re doing a farmer’s market where the Discovery store used to be?

  6. Interior rendering looks a lot like Barajas Airport in Madrid. Except for the neon.

  7. Lolz @ Independence Day and Mission Impossible posters

  8. I have an apple cafe jacket from the unveiling of apple cafe in Los angeles in 1996. It was a gift to invited gifts. anybody know if there is any value?
    c0d3t3m935t@gmail.com
    thats my e-mail if you know.

  9. apple was ahead of its time … the first consumer hand held (Newton), the first consumer digital camera (QuickTake)… the first consumer GUI/Mouse… and a UNIX based consumer OS….

  10. I have an Apple Cafe jacket too. I didn’t know the history of it. Were there other promotional items?

  11. Still a nice idea to have a drink while getting your tech answers or buy stuff from them….. but maybe to geeky to socialize over a computer screen

  12. the first is wonderful The second pic looks remarkably like the inside of the Metrion.

  13. I have an apple cafe jacket from the unveiling of apple cafe in Los angeles in 1996. It was a gift to invited gifts. anybody know if there is any value?

  14. Still a nice idea to have a drink while getting your tech answers or buy stuff from them….. but maybe to geeky to socialize over a computer screen…

  15. Actually it was a great idea, why they dont make one now, but with some upgrades offcourse!

  16. apple was ahead of its time … the first consumer hand held (Newton), the first consumer digital camera (QuickTake)… the first consumer GUI/Mouse… and a UNIX based consumer OS….

  17. Still a nice idea to have a drink while getting your tech answers or buy stuff from them!Thanks

  18. In an alternate reality.

  19. So jazzed to actually find proof of this online. I was actually the creative director for this at Landmark Entertainment Group — working with art director Luc Mayrand, we actually spent about a week with Jon Ives (circa eMate, Newton & 20th Anniversary Mac), immersing ourselves in the culture and design. It was really incredible, and a bit of a whirlwind — the initial concept (and these paintings, done by Branislav Hetcel) was created in just a few weeks before the announcement, with further development to occur once the business plan had been set. Sadly, it never happened — but I have the crew jacket as a fond memory. :)

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