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by Josh Lowensohn

The Apple retail store we know today nearly began as a place where you could grab coffee and a danish and do a little Web browsing on Mac.

Today, on the 10th anniversary of Apple’s first retail store, it’s time to take stock of just how successful Apple’s retail push has turned out to be, despite skepticism from tech pundits and–true story–a near false start selling tasty baked things.

Dial back to 1996, several years before the first retail store would ever open its door: Apple had a very different plan in mind to get its brand into the minds and wallets of consumers. Cyber cafes, with their high speed Internet access, software libraries, and nearby patrons and support staff were popping up in cities around the world.

Apple announced it would be joining forces with the Landmark Entertainment Group and Mega Bytes International to collaborate on state-of-the-art cyber cafes in Los Angeles, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, and Sydney, Australia. There visitors would be able to surf the Web, grab a snack, and use Apple’s latest hardware and software, which they might later end up buying. Then senior vice president of marketing for Apple Satjiv Chahil described it as “a place to showcase our products in the real world.”

Just a month after that announcement, Apple acquired NeXT, and soon after Steve Jobs took the spot as Apple’s CEO. In the last few days of 1997, the cybercafe idea was quietly shelved, a decision Apple attributed to its partners on the business venture.

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