Apple’s Greatest Product Ever Ships Friday



I waded into the mob at my tiny, local Apple store recently and actually heard someone say: “Wow: It’s like Grand Central Station in here.”

This Friday, the real “Grand Central Station,” which is actually called Grand Central Terminal, will itself become an Apple Store.

Of everything Apple has ever “shipped,” I think the store at Grand Central will be the greatest. Here’s why.

The world’s largest Apple Store will live inside the world’s largest train station in America’s biggest city. The station has 44 platforms and 67 tracks. Some three-quarters of a million humans pass through Grand Central Terminal every day. The Apple store will occupy 23,000 square feet.

Located at 42nd and Park in Manhattan, Grand Central Terminal was built between 1903 and 1913.

The Apple Store will not be enclosed in glass, but open on an amazing balcony overlooking the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal.

The open store will be visible to everyone walking through the Main Concourse and accessible via a sweeping grand two-part staircase. It will occupy the entire width of the East Balcony overlooking the Main Concourse, and spill over to the right, using up an adjacent part of the South Balcony.

To the left, the store will wrap around in an L shape to occupy half of the North Balcony.

The ceiling in Grand Central soars 125 feet above the concourse floor. The experience of being in the Apple will be utterly breathtaking. Visitors looking out a cross the balcony from one part of the store will be able to see the other part of the store across the empty space of the Main Concourse.

The Apple Store, which represents the most modern iconic retail aesthetic around today, will both contrast with and honor the architectural grandeur of Grand Central, built in a French neoclassical style called Beaux Arts.

One key attribute of this style is a deliberate ranking of interior spaces, from everyday, functional spaces to “noble spaces.” The most noble of spaces in Grand Central are two elaborate staircases on the Western and Eastern ends of the Main Concourse, which were modeled after staircases in the Paris Opera House. The Eastern one conveys you directly into the Apple Store.

Of course, the store will have Apple’s signature minimalist aesthetic. But it will be lit with enormous gold-plated, melon-shaped chandeliers suspended from the high ceiling. “Today” and “100 years ago” will co-exist in a breathtaking, unprecedented architectural mashup.

The Apple store presents an homage to Grand Central, unlike previous occupants. Apple will hang an understated lighted Apple logo — very small for the space — where a gigantic, garish lighted sign for Kodak Colorama hung from 1950 to 1990, “obliterating the integrity of its host architecture,” according to Paul Gunther, President of the Institute of Classical Architecture.

The Apple store will not obliterate the integrity of Grand Central, but highlight and re-enforce it. Gunther wrote that “The new Apple store is cultural memory writ large, resulting in a renewal of artistic appreciation for a place at risk of being taken for granted.”

Why the MTA Controversy Will Fade Away

A controversy erupted recently in New York over the deal Apple negotiated with the state’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), which runs Grand Central. New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced that his office will audit the MTA to make sure they’re not playing favorites.

Apple is renting the space for $1 million per year, which figures out to $60 per square foot. Other tenants are paying up to $200 per square foot. And while most tenants pay the MTA a small percentage of sales, Apple will not.

The MTA argues, however, that Apple’s low square footage cost is only part of the story. The previous tenant of the Apple Store space, a restaurant called Métrazur, paid one-quarter what Apple will pay, according to the MTA. Apple also paid $5 million to buy out the restaurant’s lease. When you factor that in, Apple will be paying $180 per square foot per year.

The MTA also points out that Apple will spend $2.5 million in permanent improvements to the terminal.

The biggest reason the MTA appears excited about the Apple Store deal is that it’s expected to drive additional business to all shops and restaurants in Grand Central. MTA expects Apple to bring in not only more customers, but younger and wealthier ones, who will also shop in the other terminal stores while they’re in there.

The biggest train stations and airports are becoming shopping malls. And the economics of shopping malls demand an “anchor” tenant. And Apple will become Grand Central’s anchor.

The reason I love the new store is because it combines several other loves: New York City, Grand Central Station, architecture, history and Apple itself, not to mention materialist capitalism. All these things will come together for a retail experience like no other in the world.

My prediction is that when the Grand Central Apple Store opens this Friday, all the controversy and criticism will be swashed away, and the store will become a source of pride and awe for New York City, and the millions of people who visit each year.

  • morgan3nelson

    Interesting mashup of other articles.  A more appropriate, and less mis-leading headline would have been Apple’s Greatest Product Ever Launches Friday. But then again – the Grand Central Terminal store is hardly Apple’s greatest accomplishment on any front.

  • quietstorms

    I don’t think this is the greatest product ever shipped but this will very quickly become Apple’s most popular and most profitable store and I’m sure they know that. It’s the nexus where many people come and leave the city – especially by train daily. 

    I think this will have a dramatic effect on that area. Many times, people are in a rush to catch the next train to and from work. An Apple store will give them time to explore. Yes, sports venues do have the same effect but it applies to a small minority of people who really aren’t interested in culture.

  • ??????? ???????

    Do you know how cheesy and cheap is to say “Here’s why” or “more after the break”, while having said nothing useful at all at the first piece?

  • Gregintosh

    I’m sure this is great for Apple fans over there, but it is 100% irrelevant to anyone outside of the New York area. The Apple brand is already seen as an “upper class” and “premium” brand so this does nothing to change that. It also has no effect on the products, service, or any other aspects of the company.

  • Ronald Stepp

    They’re “shipping” a new store?  Wow, really relevant to people who can shop online.

  • AppleKilledMobileFlash

    Now, if only Apple can convince a large portion of those millions of commuters passing through GCT to buy Apple products, it could be a huge boost for Apple product sales.  I’d like to see at least one Apple quarter where unit sales don’t disappoint Wall Street in one way or another which is becoming an unfortunate trend for Apple shareholders.

  • Len Williams

    I agree that “ships” is a misleading word in the title, because the store isn’t a product that is shipped. It’s a mixed metaphor that doesn’t work. “Launches” would have been much better.

    All that aside, what I’m curious about is about the doors to the place. I can’t see any doors they can close when the store isn’t open. I’m sure they’ll have to have something–or post armed guards 24/7 to keep people from walking away with the display merchandise. I’m assuming there will at least be Apple’s signature glass doors at the top of the stairway. Does anyone have that information?

    I’ve always wanted to visit New York. Now when I finally go I can visit the Big Apple to see the Biggest Apple Store.

    This is a bit off-topic, but Mike, how is your iPhone 4S working now? Did you get it repaired, or are you still as disappointed with it as you were a month or so ago?

  • tiresius

    Don’t know about this Apple Store, but the one on Fifth Avenue is actually open for business 24 hours a day– but may close on a few holidays.  Since the subway trains run all night underneath Grand Central, it is quite conceivable that this store will also be open 24 hours a day.

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  • Gaucho85

    I live in Westchester. This will definitely make my commute a lot more pleasurable. Instead of wading through dozens of people to get to and from my train I’ll have to do so through hundreds of people. . . Awesome.

  • Tom Cruize

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  • Len Williams

    OK, that sounds reasonable if it’s open 24 hours, but what about national holidays and times when the power goes out? I think big glass doors, possibly sliders like they have in a lot of Apple Stores, at the top of the stairs would provide minimal impact to the architecture of the building, and would create better security. I believe there are guards in the main terminal at all hours, but that balcony railing would be pretty easy to climb over. It will be interesting to see the actual close up photos of the opening.

  • NearOffice

    Wasn’t this where they filmed a scene from The Untouchables?

  • Len Williams

    I think the “if only…” is fairly well guaranteed. The 6 Apple stores I’ve been to are ALWAYS busy with lots of people whenever I’ve gone into any of them, morning, mid day and night. The MTA knows that Apple Stores always draw lots of shoppers, and is counting on this to attract customers for the other stores in the terminal. Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods are the top Christmas gifts this year, and the most searched for items recently. AAPL stock price is at $389.70 right now, so I believe the majority of stockholders are very happy with their investments. I bought when AAPL shares were $14 in the 90’s. Like any stock, the daily price will fluctuate, but you make it sound like AAPL stock is a dog with your “unfortunate trend for Apple shareholders” comment. Apple has been “disappointing” Wall Street for years, and is now one of the richest and most successful companies in the world, selling scads of millions of products.

  • gun2hd

    Altro fanboy.

  • robthespy

    Agreed- the stores in China are truly triumphant!

  • freediverx

    He’s trying to mimic Daniel Eran Dilger, who often uses the “here’s why” segue in his articles. Of course, the difference is that while Dilger is known for insightful, highly detailed and well researched stories, Elgan is more famous for completely missing the point and making a big deal out of a trivial observation.

  • freediverx

    “Apple has been “disappointing” Wall Street for years, and is now one of the richest and most successful companies in the world…”

    And this underscores two facts that have grown increasingly obvious over the last decade: 1) Apple knows exactly what they’re doing, and 2) Wall Street is f’ing clueless.

  • ErinsDad

    If it’s any consolation, anything you purchase from the Apple Store at Grand Central will taste better than anything you could have eaten at the restaurant that used to be there.  I’m not completely certain they didn’t serve mice on occasion.  

  • Dino Valenti

    That was at Union Station in Chicago.

  • CharliK

    I would say that the Tyson’s Corner and Glendale Stores were the real triumphant as they heralded in a new era for Apple and perhaps for computer retail in general. 

  • mjrmd

    The 750K persons passing through GCT each day are largely the same people. They are predominantly commuters. How might that alter projected sales, once everyone in that cohort has purchased all the Apple products they want?

  • Guest

    Its funny that apple has its biggest and greatest store in New York and theres not one in california in like San Francisco or something.

  • twitter-88588524

    They filmed a scene from THE FISHER KING with Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams at GCT.

  • twitter-88588524

    There is one in San Francisco, not far from the Moscone Center. Actually there are a few in the area: “…“

  • Cletis Fitts

    the Big Apple!

  • John Mozelewski

    so is this building being “shipped” from cali or china? (why not say opening? shipping makes it sound like a product)

  • pultdu

    And the train itself will be glittered with ipads as far as your eyes can see. Ipods will hang form the sweaty whites taunts..Haha.

  • iphoner911

    The chinese have bigger apple stores that are not even Apple’s.

  • Davidfrankk

    hahah.. true that ! China’s quite good at that.

    Offshore Software Development Company

  • Michael Ingraham

    The MTA’s logic on Apple having to pay $5M to buy out the other lease raises it’s price to $180/ft**2 is Apple-centric in that the MTA was going to get that $5M anyway.  OK, Apple has the cost, but it’s not additional revenue equating to $180 for MTA.  MTA is still renting the space to Apple, in MTA revenue, at a low rate.

    Having said that, the argument about the Apple Store being an anchor is more plausible logic.  The thing is, and I agree with mjrmd, the majority of people in this station are every day commuters who are not making a special trip to GCT to visit the Apple Store.  They are just passing through… and any merchant they visit are likely to be for inconsequential purchases (food, a small forgotten item, perhaps a gift), but not everyday Apple purchases, and not purchases driven because Apple has a store in the terminal.

    If the logic is that Apple will drive a higher socio-economic shopper to the terminal, other stores may even increase their prices to grab some of those upscale customers… at the expense of the daily commuter.  So, in the end, circularly speaking, there will be increased sales from which MTA will get higher revenues.  Apple gets the sweet deal on basement priced square footage and everyday Joe gets the shaft 8-(