The Apple store on Fifth Ave sits on a marble pedestal in the middle of the General Motors plaza, sandwiched between Cartier and Bergdorf Goodman. The 32-foot cube of glass is an oddity among skyscrapers, with its tubular elevator-pod and spiral staircase leading underground into the store. The plaza is all sleek, hard edges and gray ledges and tiles, complete with a squared fountain, but the eye can’t help but dart to the glowing Apple logo, descended from the glass ceiling. At night, it spotlights the entire area, setting the masses of people and food trucks ablaze. People line up to the right in rows just to enter, but there’s a special line to purchase the iPhone 7.
It’s no surprise that the newest Apple product has New Yorkers in a frenzy. Apple is the world’s greatest information technology company by revenue, which, according to Apple, totaled $233 billion last year- their most successful year yet. Their music store, iTunes, is also the most popular music retailer.
Blending in with the New York natives, however, are flocks of tourists (except for the few with maps), a feat you won’t see accomplished somewhere like Times Square. Everyone is taking pictures today- the Fifth Ave Apple store is actually one of the most photographed places in New York City, according to a study by Cornell University.
One pair of friends from Argentina, Belen Bascualey, 28, who works as a lawyer, and Stefania Bever, 32, who works as a radiologist, just arrived on vacation. The Apple store on Fifth Ave is their first stop, a site they chose after Googling and picking the most popular result. They both express amazement, gazing at and through the transparent building.
“Stores don’t look like this in Argentina,” Bascualey says. In fact, Argentina doesn’t have any Apple stores at all. She says most people use Samsung, but she ordered her iPhone online. Bever is here to buy the new iPhone after using Apple products for two years. Business, however, doesn’t stop them from snapping a selfie on the steps before they head inside.
Another group of friends, three tall blondes from Belgium, exit the store in a flurry of excited chatter. Sam Agneessens, 20, Astrid Van Strydonck, 24, and Giulia Lippens, 19, have all bought new phones, cases, and screen protectors. They’ve been in New York for weeks, taking classes at the EF Language School, and this is their second visit to the store after not wanting to deal with yesterday’s two-hour wait.
“It’s the Apple store that never sleeps” says Agneessens, and she’s right- though the line for purchases shuts down late in the evening, the store is open 24 hours a day.
Out of the three of them, Lippens has been using Apple products since they debuted. Her mother still has the first generation Apple computer, and her grandfather was the first person in Belgium to buy the Ipad when it came out, landing a feature in the local paper.
Now that they have their phones, Strydonck says, “We’re coming back tomorrow just for fun.”
As they leave the plaza, swarms of other young people head in. The basement-turned-store is a design Steve Jobs said used the space that “caused headaches for its owners for more than 40 years” in an interview with New York Magazine. Design coordinator, Dan Shannon, compared it to The Louvre.
Inside, people cluster around wooden tables, some of which glowing from within their glass tops, and all of which displaying something to be played with: headphones, laptops, desktops, phones. Pop music hums in the background, indistinct over the chatter between the Genius Bar at one end, and the checkout desk at the other.
There isn’t as much movement inside as there is outside; the people are concentrated on their devices or waiting: waiting in line, waiting to be helped by a navy-clad employee, waiting already, perhaps, for the iPhone 8.