Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

An Apple Store for Brooklyn?

February 14, 2009: 1:34 PM ET

brooklyn-bridgeNew Yorkers know better, especially these days, than to expect any sympathy from the rest of the country -- even though the city, with three Apple Stores for a population of more than 8 million, is conspicuously underserved by the company's retail outlets. (San Francisco's three stores, by contrast, serve a population of fewer than 800,000.)

But what about Brooklyn? The most populous of the five boroughs (pop. 2.5 million) would be, as any cabbie can tell you, the fourth largest city in the United States if it weren't yoked to Manhattan, Queens and the rest. It is home to tens of thousands of Mac users of every stripe -- teachers, students, writers, artists, designers, musicians, mobsters -- yet it has zero Apple Stores.

Which is why Brooklynites get so excited when there is any news, as there was this week, about Apple putting an outlet in their borough.

At a real estate roundtable on Tuesday, the developer of a huge condominium project on the Brooklyn side of the East River announced that an Apple Store was a "real possibility" for one of its prime ground floor retail spaces.

"There's no deal," developer Jeff Levine told the audience, according to the website Brownstoner. "But we are talking and they are interested."

The EdgeEdge viewThe site in question is the Williamsburg Edge, a 575-apartment complex still under construction with two blue-glass towers and million-dollar views of the Manhattan skyline.

Sounds cool, huh? The problem for the rest of Brooklyn is that the Edge is on the edge of nowhere, with water on one side and Williamsburg on the other -- a crazy quilt of ethnic enclaves teeming with Germans, Hasidic Jews, Italians, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and, most recently, artists and indie musicians fleeing Manhattan's exorbitant rents. There is only one subway -- the crowded L line -- and it connects Williamsburg to Manhattan, not to the main thoroughfares of Brooklyn.

Levine's claim -- true or not -- reignited the fierce internecine rivalry among Brooklyn neighborhoods that broke out a year and a half ago when word first spread, via ifoAppleStore, that Apple was shopping for a Kings County location. The pros and cons of some of the contending sites were summarized at the time by a local website called Racked.

For the benefit of my neighbors and any scouts from Apple's (AAPL) retail division who might be reading this, I've excerpted Racked's handicapping and a few of the comments. But because none of this will mean anything to the rest of the world, I've put it below the fold.

From Racked 9/13/2007:

Brace yourself: Apple is scouring Brooklyn, seeking a home in the 718 area code for a flagship Brooklyn Apple Store, sources tell Racked. While Apple's urge to hawk iPhones to Brooklynites is all but a certainty, what's not known at this time is which neighborhood the computer maker is targeting for its first Brooklyn foray.

Red Hook: Sure, Ikea's coming in. And rumors have swirled about a Bed Bath and Beyond coming in on the waterfront, too—there's at least 20,000 square feet of retail space still to play with there. Still? Apple likes stores in neighborhoods with serious foot traffic, and Ikea or not, that ain't Red Hook. Odds: 25-1

Smith Street: Foot traffic, check. And plenty of little boutiques lend an air of elegance. Okay, an air of quasi-elegance. Okay, an air of fresh Dunkin' Donuts. Transfats aside, the issue here is the lack of a retail footprint big enough even for Apple to open one of its smaller factory stores. And empty development footprints are few and far between. Odds: 15-1

Dumbo: Two Trees has been looking for a tenant in the long-vacated ABC Carpet and Home warehouse space, and there's something about the Apple and Dumbo brands that just seems to go together (overly precious, check; overly branded, check; we're over both of them, check). A longshot, though one we'd sort of love to see. Odds: 10-1

Downtown Brooklyn: Hey, if it's good enough for Target, right? By far the most boring choice, but also probably the most logical. Let's move on. Odds: 4-1

Williamsburg: Can you think of a major big-box retailer with a presence in the Burg? Exactly. Which is why this has to happen. Picture the hipsters, fresh off the L Train, wandering up North 6th and into the Apple Store, firm in their decision to avoid the $40 used iPod Shuffle on Craigslist in favor of the real $99 McCoy. These are the moments of our lives. Steve, baby, make it so. Odds: 3-1, in our wildest dreams

Additions? Deletions? To the comments, please.

Comments:

  • You left out the most obvious choice. Every person in Park Slope uses a Mac. It's probably got more Apple users per capita than any neighborhood in all 5 boroughs. If they were smart, they'd open something on 7th avenue. Most foot traffic of any of the areas you mention...
  • Dumbo is the soho of Brooklyn. Williamsburg the East Village. Park Slope the upperwest side. Downtown brooklyn......um Park Avenue south....Smith street...Nolita. I say it's Smith and Atlantic.
  • The answer is clear -- it will have steps leading down to a glass cube submerged in the Gowanus Canal. (link)

Disclosure: The author lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, 41 Google Map minutes (via two subway lines and a 16 minute hike) from the Williamsburg Edge building site.

Join the Conversation
About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

Email | @philiped | RSS
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.