Inside Apple’s meatpacking store

December 6, 2007, 7:28 PM UTC

With its third retail outlet in Manhattan set to open tomorrow, Apple (AAPL) gave the New York press a preview this morning of what it bills as the metropolitan area’s largest Apple Store.

The renovated 1920’s building sits at the corner of 14th Street and 9th Avenue, on the border of Chelsea and New York City’s meatpacking district.

It’s a lovely spot, across a little triangular park from the Old Homestead Steakhouse (“the king of beef”). Morning light floods in over the squat towers of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and there’s a lightly trafficked Starbucks one block away.

The three story spiral staircase set in a sunny atrium is the retail space’s most distinctive feature, but inside it’s a classic Apple store.

The first floor is devoted to the Macintosh, with lots of machines to play with and plenty of room to park yourself under a sunlit window and soak in the free Wi-Fi. The second floor is filled with iPods, iPhones and accessories. The third floor is dominated by a 46 foot genius bar, low tables for kids, higher tables for adults, and two new Pro Lab tables for training the “creatives” who live in the area. (The store will stay open until midnight to accommodate their lifestyles.)

“We think of this as a really great neighborhood store,” says Ron Johnson, senior VP for retail, who, given Manhattan’s brutal real estate market, had to strain a bit to tick off superlatives. It’s not the largest Apple store in the world (London’s Regent Street outlet wins that prize). It’s not even the biggest in the United States (Chicago has a larger one). And although Johnson described the genius bar as “essentially the biggest” in the world, he acknowledged that it’s about four feet shy of the longest.

Still, none of that detracts from the appeal of the space or the likelihood of its success. Apple has had no trouble filling its two other Manhattan stores — in Soho (opened in 2002) and Fifth Avenue (2006) — especially with all the Europeans in town bargain hunting for Christmas gifts with devalued U.S. dollars.

And as George Slusher pointed out in
The Mac Observer
, Apple is nowhere near saturating the New York market. The Portland metropolitan area, with a population just north of 2 million, has three Apple stores. The five boroughs of New York alone, with four times as many people, could use a few more.

Doors to the meatpacking store open to the public Friday, Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. There are free black Apple T-shirts for the faithful who queue up early. Details and directions here.