Apple’s new store overlooking Grand Central Station’s Main Concourse is the company’s fifth retail outlet in Manhattan. Located on the wide terrace overlooking the iconic train station’s Main Concourse, and extending into a series of side rooms and balconies, it will surely become one of the most-visited out of Apple’s 300-plus retail stores around the world.
At least, Apple executives likely hope that’s the case, given the space’s surely astronomical rent. And given the snaking lines of customers awaiting the store’s Dec. 9 opening, not to mention the untold thousands of commuters crossing through the Main Concourse every day, the store will certainly do solid business through the holiday season.
Once atop the terrace, visitors are greeted by a layout similar to that of other Apple stores: blonde-wood tables lined with the company’s latest products, a Genius Bar to tackle any customers’ device issues, and glowing Apple logos looming over it all. However, this store is different from its hundreds of siblings in one key way.
With other Apple stores, the company exerted rigorous control over every detail of the interior. “In one of our marketing meetings just as the stores were opening, Steve [Jobs] made us spend a half hour deciding what hue of gray the restroom signs should be,” Lee Clow, the creative director who assisted Apple in developing its brand, told Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson. Jobs and his team focused on everything from the staircases to the flooring with the same attention to detail they devoted to the company’s products.
In turn, that has resulted in Apple stores with uncompromising design: even those locations jammed into malls still offer a unique and exacting experience when you walk in the front door. But in the Grand Central space, Apple is forced to compromise with the space’s existing design. Walking along the terrace, past those tables loaded with MacBook Airs and iPads, one looks up and inevitably wonders if Steve Jobs would have approved of the chandeliers dangling directly overhead, or the way the light filters through the station’s huge windows.
Then again, plans for the location were almost certainly well underway before Jobs’ death in early October. In any case, the store’s placement inside one of the world’s landmarks, and the hordes of eager customers lining up to be the first inside on opening day, ultimately serve as yet another reminder of his legacy: the creation (and revival) of a company that became one of the largest and most-recognized in the world.