Today in Apple history: Apple shows off its amazing Fifth Avenue store

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Apple's stunning Fifth Avenue store quickly becomes a New York landmark.
Photo: Simone Lovati/Flickr CC

May 18: Today in Apple history: Cupertino shows off its amazing Fifth Avenue Apple store May 18, 2006: The world — and, more specifically, the Apple-watching press — gets its first glimpse at Apple’s swanky new Fifth Avenue Apple store in New York City.

Hidden behind black plastic wrapping during development, that all changes a day before the store’s grand opening. Workers remove the covering, revealing a 32-foot glass cube adorned with a floating, white Apple logo. At 10 a.m., members of the press get an exclusive tour of the new venue.

Steve Jobs’ Apple store

As I’ve written previously in “Today in Apple history,” May is a significant month for Apple stores. Almost exactly five years before the Fifth Avenue Apple store’s unveiling, Apple opened its first retail outlets. Those stores were in McLean, Virginia, and the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California.

By 2006, however, Apple was ready to make a big splash. Few locations could do that like the Big Apple. Steve Jobs had been heavily involved with Apple’s retail store strategy all along. And the Fifth Avenue Apple store bore his fingerprints throughout.

It was really Steve’s store,” is how Ron Johnson, Apple’s former senior vice president of retail, described the Fifth Avenue Apple store.

For architects, Jobs hired Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the firm that designed a massive Seattle home for Bill Gates. Because the Fifth Avenue Apple store’s actual retail space was located underground, accessible via a glass elevator, the design brief called for the firm to create something spectacular enough to lure in customers.

Fifth Avenue Apple store becomes a New York landmark

It clearly worked. Not only did the Fifth Avenue Apple store become the most spectacular Apple retail store of its time, but it also — quite astonishingly — became New York’s most photographed landmark.

Its opening, the day after the May 18 press preview, drew a variety of actors, musicians, movie directors and TV personalities. The opening day star power included Kevin Bacon, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Spike Lee, Dave Chappelle and more than a dozen others.

Have you visited the Fifth Avenue Apple store? What is your pick for the most spectacular Apple store in the world? Leave your comments below.