When Apple’s former retail chief Ron Johnson presented the idea for tech support stations—dubbed Genius Bar—that would be located inside the company’s brick-and-mortar stores, Steve Jobs loathed the concept and thought it would never work.
“I remember the day I came in and told Steve about the Genius Bar idea and he says, ‘That’s so idiotic! It’ll never work!’”, Johnson told Recode.
Steve took issue with Johnson’s insistence that Genius Bar be manned by young, tech-literate kids, Johnson told Recode’s Kara Swisher on the Recode Decode podcast.
”I’ve never met someone who knows technology who knows how to connect with people. They’re all geeks! You can call it the Geek Bar,” Jobs argued.
Johnson responded by saying: “Steve, kids who are in their 20s today grew up in a very different world. They all know technology and that’s who’s going to work in the store.”
Here’s a video of Steve giving a tour of one of the original Apple Stores back in 2001.
Notice the iMacs at the cash register and the red “batphone” for Geniuses to call experts at Cupertino if they encounter a customer issue they’re unable to solve.
Johnson created a ten-page thesis of why Apple should do its own retails stores and what they should be like in a few short days. Although Jobs initially didn’t like Johnson’s ideas, he eventually relented, approved the project and hired Johnson on the spot.
The next day, Jobs called Apple’s top lawyer to file a trademark for “Genius Bar.”
With support from Jobs and input from Jony Ive, Johnson was able to realize his vision for what would become Apple’s widely imitated retail stores with Genius Bar as their mainstay. The rest, as they say, is history.
Following his departure from Apple in 2011 and a brief stint as JC Penney’s CEO, Ron Johnson now runs online retail startup Enjoy.