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, the covering is removed one day before the store’s grand opening — revealing a 32-foot glass cube adorned with a white, floating Apple logo. At 10am EST, members of the press get an exclusive tour of the new venue.
As I’ve written previously in “Today in Apple history,” May is a significant month for Apple stores. Five years before the Fifth Avenue Apple store opened its doors, Apple opened its first retail outlets — located at McLean, Virginia, and the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California.
A few years later, however, it was ready to make a big splash, and few locations could do that like the aptly-named Big Apple. Although Steve Jobs had been heavily involved with Apple’s retail store strategy all along, 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 once described the Fifth Avenue Apple store.
For architects, Jobs hired Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, who also once designed a massive Seattle home for Bill Gates. Because the 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 people in.
It clearly worked, since 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, was attended by a variety of actors, musicians, movie directors and TV personalities including Kevin Bacon, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Spike Lee and Dave Chappelle — along with more than a dozen others.
The grand (re)opening
At present, Apple is working to expand the size of its Fifth Avenue store by doubling its size from 32,000 square feet to a massive 77,000 square feet. With the store currently moved to a nearby location, the reopened original site will open its doors in late 2017.
An Apple spokesperson described the upcoming new Fifth Avenue Apple store as “incredible,” and said it is somewhere “customers will [be able to] enjoy new services and experiences in a much larger space.” Among other features, the reopened store will reportedly feature a Beats 1 broadcasting booth, possibly for Beats 1 DJ Ebro Darden, who currently broadcasts from another location in Manhattan.
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.