Connecting Point has moved to a new location at the McAndrews Marketplace on McAndrews Road in Medford. [Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta]

Apple outlet gets smaller, like its products

Connecting Point has relocated to the McAndrews Marketplace.

The oldest existing Apple dealership — anywhere — has operated on Stevens Street since exiting downtown in 1997.

The move reflects both Apple's changing requirements and how computer retailing has changed in the past 20 years.

"You're not going to find the big warehouse stores stacking boxes to the ceiling," General Manger Jeff Thomas said. "That's not how retail looks anymore."

Instead, customers will find a more intimate setting that appeals to Apple, which helped find and approve the location next to Golf Etc.

"It used to be that people bought a giant tower and giant monitor," Thomas said. "We needed a lot more space for inventory then."

With the adoption of smartphones, tablets and notebooks, computer retailers don't need as much elbow space.

"Even 17-inch notebooks are passe," he said. "Most people want smaller, lighter machines; 13 to 15 inches is the sweet spot. Wearable devices are huge sellers now. They cost as much as a PC, but they're tiny."

While the retail space is slightly smaller, Thomas said, more room is dedicated to service technicians.

The Spring Street lease doesn't run out until June, but it was better to grab the next place a bit early.

"You can't time those things perfectly," Thomas said.

Apple real estate specialists also checked out Northgate Marketplace before settling on the east Medford location. 

The industry has seen continual miniaturization of components and devices, which may have made this move easier than the last one.

Nonetheless, transplanting a business overnight remains a monumental task, said Marketing Manager Tom Pentland, who has been with the firm for more than three decades.

"It was just as excruciating," Pentland said. "There's nothing fun about moving heavy displays, but at least the computers are a lot smaller. The old (cathode ray tube) monitors with 19- and 21-inch displays were a load.  We started packaging up some stuff the week leading up to the move. We had a skeleton crew at the old location on Saturday, while everyone else was helping with the move."

The firm has 21 employees, adding seasonal help in the summer when regulars are on vacation, and Christmas.

When the store opened in 1976, it was known as Team Electronics and sold stereo systems, speakers and CD players. Owner Rick Mandell signed on with the little-known Apple during a conference in 1979 when it was marketing the Apple.  In the 1980s, the retailer jettisoned the audio components, briefly rebranding itself as Microworks.

"We got out of consumer electronics at exactly the right time," Pentland said.

As the only Apple premium service partner between Redding, California, and Eugene, including the coast, Connecting Point's reach ranges beyond the Rogue Valley.

Between 2000 and 2015, Connecting Point operated a Bend location.

"Central Oregon is a different type of market where there are a lot of seasonal folks with second homes for winter or summer," Thomas said. "So a lot of the buying patterns are different."

Sometime within the next two years, however, Thomas said, Connecting Point plans to extend its presence — perhaps returning to Central Oregon or going into Redding or Roseburg.

"With our service area," he said, "we're reaching all the way down within 50 miles of Redding, and within 50 miles of Eugene already."

 — Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness.


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