By  on November 13, 2009

NEW YORK — Apple’s latest buzzword as it applies to its stores is “significant” — units with distinctive architecture and impactful size. And the computer brand wants more of them.

“In 2010, we’re going to build our stores a little larger,” said Ron Johnson, senior vice president of retail for Apple. “We’ll open more significant stores.”

The 14,000-square-foot unit opening at 1982 Broadway on the corner of 67th Street on Saturday fits the new model — it’s the company’s largest store in Manhattan and is the last freestanding retail space on the avenue.

Beneath an all-glass arched roof — a first for Apple retail — is the largest product display area in the chain. Apple has turned conventional retail logic on its head, often to stunning effect. The company ignored the long-held belief that consumers won’t shop on a store’s lower level when it opened its Fifth Avenue unit. A glass cube with the Apple logo on the street level is basically a large vestibule. Once inside, customers take a glass elevator or spiral staircase to the store, one level below.

The Broadway unit’s lower level houses the company’s largest room for personal training and technical support, including a 45-foot Genius Bar.

The Apple store was previously a Victoria’s Secret unit. Apple erased all signs of the previous tenant’s black-and-white-striped floors and crystal chandeliers, building 45-foot-high walls covered with Tennessee gray marble — a stone typically used for monuments — and filling the room with more than a dozen large blond-wood tables. “The most simple things are usually the hardest to achieve,” Johnson said. “We could have gone four or five stories high, but we had an idea to do a single floor with a 45-foot glass ceiling and a second floor underground.”

Johnson said Apple’s interest in the neighborhood was piqued by the last six or seven years of “great renovation on the Upper West Side,” including the opening of the Time Warner Center and the Shops at Columbus Circle.

The neighborhood, he said, “is about kids and the arts.” For the opening, Apple will distribute T-shirts to the first 500 children and 2,000 adults. Events at the store are geared for the demographic, including on Dec. 4, Face the Music, Kaufman Center’s Children’s Youth Ensemble, and on Dec. 20, Juilliard Jazz Ensemble.

For the first time ever, Apple will gift wrap iPods and Macs for holiday giving. Consumers now can reserve gifts online through a new Reserve a Gift option, where stores will hold items without a deposit from Dec. 15 to Christmas Eve. Wireless, paperless, handheld credit card scanners are being replaced by iPod Touches that even accept cash.

Apple unveiled a store at the Louvre in Paris last week. A second store is planned for Paris in the spring, along with units in London and Shanghai.

A store is scheduled to bow in Greenwich, Conn., on Nov. 21, and the Manhasset, N.Y., location opened Oct. 17. The unit at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y., which is one of the largest mall units in the world, opened in 2002 and was recently renovated.

“I’m not done with Manhattan yet,” Johnson said. “Brooklyn — stay tuned. We’ve spent a lot of time looking for an opportunity there.”

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