In a nondescript office building opposite New York’s Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan, there’s a gleaming white lobby. Its aggressive blandness is typical of the neighborhood. But once you get past the front desk, up the elevators, and through the Plexiglas security border on the seventh floor, there’s something that’s unusual for Midtown: a sprawling warehouse with concrete floors and fluorescent lights. It’s a scene that calls to mind more a suburban packaged goods distribution center, than the priciest real estate in the country.
Yes, it’s probably a very expensive warehouse, but being in the center of the action is the appeal at Amazon’s Manhattan Prime Now Hub, the first of its kind, and now one of 30 across the country. Prime Now is the company’s two-hour delivery service (free with Prime membership, $7.99 for one-hour delivery). And it’s Amazon’s most significant foray into the world of instant-gratification retail.
Stephenie Landry, VP of Prime Now, spoke to Fortune about the project. While she declined to give specifics about Amazon’s plans for uber-fast delivery in the future, she did talk about the mechanics of providing more than 20,000 different products to millions of New York residents in under two hours. The short answer: delivery made possible by algorithms plotting seamless routes, and messengers traveling by bike, car, truck and subway.