Apple unveils new Riverwalk store

By Taylor Hartz

October 19, 2017

The mystery surrounding Apple’s new Michigan Avenue store was unmasked Thursday, with a preview of the tech-mogul’s new Chicago location.  

Staffed with 250 employees, the store will officially open at 5p.m. on Friday, replacing the North Michigan Avenue store that opened in 2003. The former retail spot, which was Apple’s first U.S. Flagship store, closed Wednesday.

“It’s an honor to unveil our newest greatest project here in Chicago,” said Senior Vice President of Retail Angela Ahrendts, giving a guided tour Thursday.

Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail for Apple, gives a tour of the new Michigan Avenue store.

Ahrendts said she hopes that the new store will not only serve as a retail and trouble-shooting center, but as a community gathering spot.

“We really wanted to create the town square for Chicago and for the Midwest,” said Ahrendts.

With floor to ceiling windows, the new space includes a retail floor where new Apple employees called Creative Pros will give demonstrations on apple products and technology tools, and a new upper-level genius gallery to view courses and workshops that take place in the open-concept “forum”.

Outside, the store connects Pioneer Plaza to the Riverwalk with a two staircases that run down either side of the store. According to Ahrendts, Apple executives met with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office to discuss ways the store could help draw more foot traffic to the Riverwalk.

“Apple Michigan Avenue is about removing boundaries between inside and outside, reviving important urban connections within the city,” said Apple’s chief design officer Jony Ive in a statement. “It unites a historic city plaza that had been cut off from the water, giving Chicago a dynamic new arena that flows effortlessly down to the river.”

Compared to the previous store on Michigan Avenue, the new store will have up to five times as many employees on deck to help customers learn more about their technology.

Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail for Apple, gives a tour of the new Michigan Avenue store.

“The role of retail for Apple is human connection because that’s what you don’t get on the app and don’t get online,” said Ahrendts.

To help foster that human connection, Apple has a calendar full of plans to bring community members together in the “forum” to socialize, network and teach one another in hands-on workshops.

As a part of Apple’s in-store programming series Today at Apple, the new store will host a city-focused Chicago series.

Oct. 23 through Nov. 17, local artists, authors, and entrepreneurs will host a series of tech-based workshops.

The first event on Oct. 23 will be led by 1871 Chicago’s Center for Technology and Entrepreneurship, based in merchandise mart, and will focus on using technology to accelerate a startup.

Other events will include poetry slams and an art collaborative with Black Monks of Mississippi.  

According to Today at Apple Director Hasehm Bajwa, the courses are meant to “inspire people to do more with the things they’re passionate about.”

Today at Apple Director Hashem Bajwa discusses The Chicago Series during a preview of the new Michigan Avenue store.

Taking on a Chicago focus, the courses are also meant to give attendees a chance to network with one another, fostering creative connections within the community.

“We wanted to make sure we were in fusing local knowledge to create his programs,” said Bajwa. “This is in Chicago, of Chicago.”

Bajwa said the local program is launching here because “Chicago is such a thriving city there’s so many new and interesting immersing creative pockets across the city. We wanted to celebrate that and fuel it,” but he hopes more locally designed programs will soon develop in other cities.

The store will also host “Teacher Tuesdays” every week, where employees will show local educators new ways to use technology in classrooms. 

Apple users can also get lessons in new technology, including Augmented Reality, or AR. Announced in an Apple Keynote this summer, the company is exploring ways to use AR to improve gaming, bring children’s books to life, and even help users shop for furniture by visualizing pieces in their own home right on their phone.

According to Apple, all devices at the store will be equipped with AR, and employees will be available to walk users through the new technology. 

The new Apple Store at 401 N. Michigan Ave. will open at 5p.m. on Oct. 20.

For a full list of Chicago Series events, visit 

www.apple.com/today/collection/chicago/