Memphis’ revamped Apple Store opens at Saddle Creek

As previously reported, Memphis’ Apple Store was set to move across the street from its original location into a brand-new space that is among the first of its kind here in the United States.

This morning, the store re-opened. I decided to hang out with some local Apple fans at the opening event, and check out the new store.

As shown in the renderings, the front of the 4,000-square ft. space is more or less just giant sheets of glass, allowing sunlight to pour into the store:

The effect is rather impressive; it’s hard to tell where the store ends and the sidewalk outside begins.

Inside, the store has familiar elements, but they’re put together in some new and interesting ways. Products are still displayed on large wooden tables, but they’re now laid out in a large grid:

Down each side of the store is what’s called an “Avenue.” The idea is to allow visitors to “window shop” select accessories and smaller items, like iPods. Here in Memphis, one Avenue held cases for the iPhone and iPad, while the other was dedicated to Watch and audio accessories:

These bays can be changed out independently of each other, and can house anything from products to video screens to even live plants. They have a few hidden tricks, too. If a visitor wants to buy a dark blue iPhone case, the clerk simply pulls on the sample case that’s visible on the wall, sliding open a drawer full of products for sale. I immediately thought of a safety deposit box when I saw it.

Likewise, the headphones rest on wooden spheres, and their audio cables auto-retract into the cavity behind the panel when a shopper is done trying them on:

While the back of the old Memphis store housed the Genius Bar — and a theatre before that — Genius appointments now take place at the tables on the sales floor. Technicians can now sit down with their customers and work together, instead of having the Bar as a barrier between them. This is a change that I’ve heard praised from Geniuses all over the country, and as much as I’ll miss the Bar I stood behind so many years go, I respect this change.

In it’s place is a giant video screen, rumored to cost over $1 million. It shows clips of various Apple products in a loop, and is pretty damn impressive. I can imagine that after dark, this will be visible from the street quite easily, despite being at the back of the store.

The screen is a rare showing of hubris in what’s an otherwise understated space. In fact, there’s no logo on the front face of the store. Rather, an Apple logo has been screened onto the casing around the window, but is only visible if you’re right at the glass:

Today was my first store opening. While I was present for several Mac OS X launches and the first two iPhones as an employee, it was more than a little weird to be applauded and high-fived for entering what is, at the end of the day, a retail store. That said, I’ll give Apple this: it’s a beautiful one.