Early this morning, while thousands of NYC commuters trudged by, mostly unaware and uninterested, a modest band (about 100 at 8 am) of diehard Apple fans congregated in a long underground corridor waiting for the opening of the Grand Central Terminal store. The grandeur and architectural majesty of the station's main concourse and the massive staircase leading up to the new retail outlet were invisible from the utilitarian and bare Northeast Passage, where security personnel and store employees kept the line waiters out of the main flow of pedestrian traffic.
Grand Central serves as the terminus for the Metro-North commuter railroad and a hub for several subway lines, but despite its role at the heart of the "city that never sleeps" it actually does close for a time every night; from 2 AM to 5 AM, the building is inaccessible to the public. That meant that the 12 or so folks who were actually waiting to get into the store at 10 AM Friday had to step out to the sidewalk for three hours. That's some dedication right there.
Here's a video visit with Jacob, who held the first spot in line.
His wait, and the wait of hundreds of others who eventually joined the line before and after the opening (including a mom & two sons from New Jersey who made a day trip of it; Harrison, the 13-year-old, is an iOS and Mac developer), found ample reward with cheers and high-fives from the red-shirted Apple staff lining the staircase and the store floor. See below for video clips of the opening moments; the main GCT concourse was full of people watching the spectacle.
The store itself covers a huge swath of the terminal's balcony, with most of that real estate dedicated to systems & iOS device sales, workshops, Genius Bar support and other high-touch activities. Accessories and software occupy only one small hideaway, two flights above the main sales floor.
Weekday hours will be 7 AM to 9 PM, and you can safely bet that the commuter rush hours will be packed solid -- but midday and early afternoons should be pleasant enough in the store, with plenty of room to spread out. The store may also take some of the shopper load off of the 5th Avenue store, which is just over a mile away.
Unfortunately the store launches with some controversy already in place, as the New York Post reports. At least two inquiries are pending regarding Apple's deal with the Metropolitan Transit Authority, concerning the lack of revenue sharing for the store (a contingency of other rental deals in GCT).
Here's Philip Elmer-Dewitt's linewalk video -- you can see me at about the 39-second mark, waving.
Thanks to Rich Rose for the countdown video.