One of the most successful stores in the history of retail is getting a major makeover.
Apple opened the 42-by-40-foot sliding glass doors to its new flagship store here Thursday, throwing the curtain back on a design that puts a premium on hanging out over shopping. Roughly 20% of the new store's space is dedicated to an open Forum area where visitors can learn about the company's various software and hardware offerings.
The store officially opens May 21; Apple has ready rolled out its new populist look at stores in Brussels, Memphis and Guilderland, N.Y.
"This is the next generation of Apple retail," Angela Ahrendts, Apple's senior vice president of retail and online operations, told media gathered at the two-story store at 300 Post Street, not far from Union Square and the company's former flagship.
“Fifteen years ago today Apple opened its first two stores and we’re thrilled to mark the occasion with the opening of Apple Union Square in San Francisco," she said. “We are not just evolving our store design, but its purpose and greater role in the community as we educate and entertain visitors and serve our network of local entrepreneurs."
The new stores represent the collaborative creative efforts of Ahrendts and Apple's longtime design chief, Jony Ive.
Among the other big changes in evidence is morphing Apple's Genius Bar to Genius Grove; the addition of a new Boardroom area dedicated to small business customers; and the advent of a new staff position, Apple Creative Pro, tasked with helping consumers with specific questions on music, photography, videos and the like.
In addition, some of Apple's most significant store locations, including the one here, will feature a public Plaza that will be open 24/7 and feature free WiFi as well as occasional concerts and other performances.
Another highlight of the new look is a giant 6K video wall, whose ultra-high resolution display broadcasts a loop spotlighting various Apple products.
The new in-store emphasis on enterprise clients is new for Apple and represents a shift away from its core customer. Apple increasingly has been forging partnerships to build out its appeal to businesses, including teaming with Microsoft to run Office on Apple's iPad Pro tablet.
Some analysts suggest that Apple could once again revolutionize the retail space with an approach that encourages consumers to hang out as they might in a coffee shop, where interacting is perhaps more valued than buying.