To most everybody, Apple’s iconic Fifth Avenue store is just a store — a physical retail space to sell shiny new iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and more.
It’s a store, not a revolutionary new Apple product that changes the world. It exists to take your dollars in exchange for products.
But Apple Fifth Avenue is more than just a store to me.
The massive aluminum-covered lair became a haven for creativity, due in part to the many people who listened to music on iPods, edited video with iMovie on an iMac, or made music in GarageBand with no intention of buying anything.
I dropped by during long breaks in-between college classes just to mess with Apple’s suite of built-in software for the Mac. I made friends with nerds and geeks who shared my passion for tech. Being surrounded by amateur creatives gave me the confidence to pursue a professional career working with video, text, and music.
Located literally in the heart of New York City — midtown Manhattan, right at the southern tip of Central Park — Apple Fifth Avenue was the embodiment of the #hustle life and the energy of the city.
Personal story time: Apple Fifth Ave’s 24 hr operations saved me from losing a final paper in college in 2008. Fixed my MacBook hard drive in 2008687:19 PM – Sep 19, 2019 · Apple Fifth AvenueTwitter Ads info and privacySee Raymond Wong’s other Tweets
The one thing that made the Fifth Avenue store truly special was that it was the only Apple store that was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
In 2008, I walked down the glass cube’s spiraling glass staircase at 3 a.m., pulled out my 13-inch plastic MacBook, and asked an Apple employee if they could help me recover a 10-page paper that I feared was lost due to a corrupted hard drive (remember, solid-state drives didn’t exist on MacBooks yet).
I can’t recall all of the details — I just remember my body shaking from being cooped up at home writing— but somebody saw how desperate I was and came to my rescue.
After some two hours of resetting this and that, me frantically tapping my foot against a Genius Bar chair, running diagnostic tests, cloning my drive, I got my anthropology paper back. And I still had a few hours left to rush over to my school’s computer lab to polish it up and turn it in.
Apple Fifth Avenue’s one-of-a-kind retail and customer service experience hooked me and made me see the company as more than just a soul-less corporation trying to sell me stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, as a reporter who reviews consumer tech, I call it like it is, and still buy many non-Apple products. But no other tech company comes close to providing the kind of customer satisfaction Apple does. No other tech company is as invested in teaching users how to do more with their devices.
Critics often say that Apple’s “Today at Apple” sessions, where employees and guests, teach people how to do something like edit a video, or make music are a distraction from the purpose of a store, which is to show people products and get them checked out.
I’d much rather a store that’s inviting, where people gather because of a shared interest in using devices to push boundaries than one that feels cold, sterile, but perhaps more efficient.
The renovations to Apple Fifth Avenue, which include more open spaces and tables for products, a Genius Bar that’s double the size it was before, more natural lighting from the ceiling, and a private HomePod listening room (to name a few updates), are all in service to the atmosphere created by the people who visit.
Just as it was once a place for me to hang out, get inspired, and receive much-needed technical support, I hope the redesigned space will be the same for a new generation of creatives.
Here’s a look inside the new Apple Fifth Avenue
The ceiling now features holes (Apple seems obsessed with holes these days) to let in a ton of natural light.
Like many of Apple’s other redesigned flagship stores, Apple Fifth Avenue has greenery on the walls and tree planters with leather-covered seating.
On one end of the store is a massive display for specialists and guests to give their “Today at Apple” tutorial sessions.
On the opposite end is a listening room for customers to experience HomePod.
Tables of iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and Apple Watches (including the new Apple Watch Studio, which lets you choose a custom watch case and band) are lined up perfectly parallel in between.
Along the walls are the usual accessories, including cases, chargers, and headphones.
One fun Easter egg is the new “AirPods bay” — a small display of wireless earbuds set to the jingle from Apple’s old “Think Different” advertising campaign.
The steps on the spiraling staircase are no longer made of glass, which occasionally cracked from time to time. Now it’s made of metal. Definitely an improvement.