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Santa Monica’s Apple Store Is Brilliant

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It would be ridiculous for us to attempt to claim some sort of distance from the cult of Apple. As if some secret religion that can be too embarrassing to confess your allegiance to, one’s love of Apple and fervency to preach about them can be a bit overwhelming. Thus, apologies up front: this posts is exactly one of those preach-y, “HAIL APPLE.” sort of posts. It’s based in architecture, though.

We were wandering around the Santa Monica Promenade over the weekend, a place we had not visited in several months. While the new Converse store was pretty cool and places like Barneys, CB2, J.Crew, and more are always delights, none of these places really wow you. Nike does a great job merchandising and their space is quite beautiful too but it can be a bit predictable. The only store that could steal the title of best looking on the Promenade and has stolen the title is Apple, whose new giant clear retail space feels more like walking into a crystal cathedral than it does a computer store.

The store is a funny little brother to the giant prism to Apple that was built in New York’s Upper West Side. It has the feel of a giant glass barn or gymnasium and lures you in under its glowing white apple as if some kind, cultish tractor beam drawing you in to stare at many lightweight aluminum gadgets. The store is loud, much like the gym it looks like, and there is a huge presence of blue shirted Apple helpers giving one-to-one service ministry on how the objects work.

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It’s easy to simply say “Hey, the store is made of glass and it’s cool. Okay, bye!” but there’s something else happening here that makes the store special, Apple or not. As a skeptic of just about everything, there were lingering doubts as we entered the space: it probably isn’t as brilliant as expected. It seemed too big and absolutely too busy, like a post-church crowd is blocking access to the vestibule you need to get to in order to put away your altar boy equipment. You dodge people and walk past wooden tables of merchandise and merchandise and merchandise and seemingly get nowhere.

That’s kind of the crazy thing about the store: you feel like you are going nowhere when in fact you are passing walls and walls of bizarro Apple merchandise only a store this size can carry. Every single speaker on their website is basically here in addition to a large selection of musical equipment. The tables of equipment breakdown from phones to tablets to laptops to computers as you walk from the entry in, a smart way to grab and keep (new) customers through the dependence on an iPhone. The store goes forever and it’s sleek glass ceiling feels like an ocean in the sky, allowing you to keep diving from one techy dream moment to another.

The store is housed in the old Borders space and, as Curbed has logged for years, was under an obvious shroud of mystery for some time. It is “just another Apple store” but the its all glass casing is so effing big and beautiful that the store truly is an accomplishment. There is a magic in it’s cleanliness and openness, especially since you are so close to the ocean. It was also smart of them to design the building within eyeshot of palm tress who you can see from all angles of the store: the store’s relationship with Santa Monica is very deep. Hail Apple for another job(s) well done.

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