Saturday morning, Apple was kind enough to provide us with a private preview of Winnipeg’s first Apple Store before it opened up to thousands of roaring Apple fans eager to get their hands on the Cupertino company’s finest products.

Kevin Harms and his son were first in line and were at the Polo Park entrance at 6am (the Apple Store didn’t officially open until 9:30am). We asked Kevin what he was planing on buying and why he showed it up so early. “Just headphones…” Kevin replied, “We love Apple and are just excited to see the store.”

Troy Dunn, store manager of the Polo Park Apple Store, took us on a tour of Canada’s 12th Apple Store. Though there weren’t any big Grand Opening Specials, they did give away exclusive Polo Park Apple shirts to the first 1000 visitors. A stainless steel iPod Shuffle is also available for purchase exclusively to the Apple Store.

By 9:11am the lineup had reached the Petland all the way at the other side of the mall. The Apple Store staffed every single employee they had that day (I counted almost 40). Around 9:15am, just before the big opening, the 40 staff dressed in orange and blue stepped out of the store to greet some of the customers who have been waiting in line for nearly 3 hours. They all rushed out screaming and cheering making sure to greet the end of the line which has now reached Starbucks.

9:28am, the Apple Store shuts off its lights and a woman comes out to yell “Winnipeg, are you ready for the Apple Store?”. It is followed by cheers and a countdown of 5-4-3-2-1. At 9:30am sharp, the lights come back on and the line up of hundreds of Winnipegers are released into the store. Apple did an amazing job with line management and security. The line was long, but moved quickly! About 100 people where allowed into the store every 10-15 minutes for the first hour.

Though the line did move quickly, it did continue to grow. That didn’t scare away anyone as customers continued fall in line to simple step into the store. And that pretty much was what people did – step into the store. Watching customers walk out, I noticed that not many people were making any purchases. I guess it was expected or assumed that there would be some door crasher specials. This wasn’t the case.

So what really was the big deal? Many people have pondered “Why do we need an Apple Store when you can buy Mac’s and iPods at Future Shop, Best Buy, or almost everywhere else for the same price?” Though the statement is true, the Apple Store puts a focus on a full Apple Experience as well as delivering every lineup of Apple approved accessories available. When you make a purchase at the Apple Store, staff makes sure you know everything you need to know on that product/accessory.

Apple Store staff are professional trained at Apple HQ and are knowledgeable like a mechanic is to your vehicle. The Apple Store also provides us, for the first time ever, a Genius Bar. The Genius Bar is where you can go and get face-to-face technical support for your ANY of your Apple products.

I’m looking forward to many more future visits to the Apple Store. I think my first purchase is going to be an Incase iPhone case – they looked really slick!

Here are some photos from our photographer Huy T.

[flickr style=”border:none; padding:4px; border:1px solid #BDBDBD;”]set:72157622286986057[/flickr]