Next generation Apple flagship store on riverfront strives for community engagement

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The newest addition to Chicago's growing riverfront is the biggest yet - Apple's Michigan Avenue store.

It sells iPhones, iPads and Apple watches, but Apple said it isn't a typical Apple store.

"This really epitomizes our vision of what a town square is, it's a place where everyone is welcome where the best of Apple comes together," said Angela Ahrendts, Apple's senior vice president of retail.

The location, considered the next generation of Apple flagships, has all the iconic Apple trademarks - a lot of glass, long wooden tables, and plenty of products to try.

What's new is a renewed focus on helping customers advance in the ever-changing digital world.

"Apple has always been at the intersection of technology and liberal arts...We want to inspire people...and help them go further with what they can do with our products," said Hashem Bajwa, director of in-store programming.

They'll be doing that through a series of seminars and other training classes in a boardroom and a new open-air classroom.

"We're working with a lot of great local artists and partners to develop deeper, richer programs that will impact and improve different things in the city that may be needed," said Bajwa.

In a city known for its architecture, the design for Apple's new flagship is very deliberate.

"The big idea for this project is to bring the plaza down to the river because there was quite a cliff and you'd be standing on the plaza and you didn't know the river existed," said Stefan Behling, the architect.

At the new store, the genius bar is gone. Instead, the top level is home to the genius gallery, with leather top seating for customers waiting for service.

"We don't even call it a store anymore," Bajwa said. "It's a place for the community to gather and to be inspired and learn."

Apple Michigan Avenue opens to the public Friday at 5 p.m.
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