In one of the newest of Apple's "significant" stores, the Upper West Side architecture is reminiscent of a modern museum. "Significant" is a distinction bestowed upon Apple's grander buildings located in large cities, which use more precious materials and try to make a statement on the local skyline. It is one of the few stand-alone stores in an area saturated with skyscrapers, and at night the bright lights coming from inside light up the entire block.
The space formerly occupied by a Victoria's Secret store was completely gutted and demolished, and the current two-story, glass-framed structure was built from scratch.
Cash registers are absent. Instead, each employee will accommodate transactions with custom-made software that runs on an iPod Touch. They'll still accept cash with the drawers hidden in the wooden display tables.
The glass-and-steel roof is curved upward and sits atop 45-foot-tall marble walls, giving the space a cavernous feel, particularly when compared with typical New York retail. Eleven of the iconic 32-foot glass cubed structures from the Fifth Avenue store could fit inside this new one.
The bright street-level floor is reserved for hands on experiences with more Macs, iPods and iPhones than any other store in the world. A quick walk down the trademark spiral staircase brings visitors to the lower level and the largest area of any Apple store created for personal training and tech support.
There are no windows below ground, but the staircase allows some light to shine and gives iPhone users five full bars of AT&T 3G coverage.
Johnson pointed to lessons learned from previous stores.
"We realize we need larger stores, and we can't make enough room for the Genius Bar," he said. The Genius Bar is Apple's genius idea of offering lifetime free technical support at each of their stores. The newest Genius Bar offers 45 feet of technical support.
The ground level is dedicated to selling accessories, a kids' section and an area designed to accommodate 100 people receiving technical support or one-on-one training.
Apple, known for its quirky but knowledgeable staff, said 10,000 people applied for jobs at the store, 2,500 interviewed and 220 were eventually hired. Besides offering sales advice and technical support, staff will host free events with the focus on arts and children aimed at those under 25.
The newest Apple Store opens this Saturday at 10 a.m.
Traditionally, Apple fans line up before the doors open, and cheering employees welcome them; the first couple thousand typically receive souvenir T-shirts. With a nod toward the family-saturated Upper West Side, Apple will hand out 500 children-size shirts for the first time.