SAJO & Apple: Defining Retail Excellence in Music City USA

SAJO builds Apple flagship in downtown Nashville.

The story of Apple lies at the heart of 20th and 21st century innovation. Its co-founder, Steve P. Jobs, was one of the pioneers and masterminds of Silicon Valley who revolutionized computer technology, telephony, and consumer electronics. Through his ingenious undertakings, which stretched from the mid-1970’s to his untimely death in 2011, at the age of fifty-six, Steve Jobs’ visionary technological innovations proved transformative for society as a whole. 

Apple products were characterized by their sleek appearance, streamlined design, user-friendly digital interface, high functional performance, and strong capability for communication and instantaneous connectivity. Their impact was immeasurable, helping to usher in the era of the digital lifestyle, which permanently changed the lives of people across the globe. 

Headquartered in Cupertino, California, Apple Inc. is consistently ranked as the world’s largest technology company by revenue and as one of the most highly valued brands, with current financial worth estimated in the trillions of dollars. 

It was not until May 2001 that Apple’s brick-and-mortar retail division was launched, with the opening of its first two stores, one located in the affluent L.A. suburb of Glendale, California, and the other in the upscale Washington, D.C. suburb of Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. The overwhelming commercial appeal and success of these stores paved the way for Apple’s expansion across the globe. In the more than two decades since, Apple stores have sprung up in well over 500 locations across more than 25 countries and regions. Its retail chain of stand-alone stores and prominent flagships, situated in the world’s key shopping malls and street locations, has served to establish its international market dominance and influential brand presence.

Apart from his unparalleled engineering intuition, Steve Jobs’s marketing savvy changed the face of brick-and-mortar retail. Placing customer experience and service front and center, Jobs introduced a new look of spotless, well-lit, wide open spaces where customers and visitors were welcome to browse, at their leisure, and use the Apple hardware and software on display. A section of the store, known as the Genius Bar, was dedicated to customer service where in-store technical advisors or «geniuses» could respond to queries on the spot or call Cupertino directly to obtain the information requested. To add to its client-centred culture and atmosphere, the Apple store also hosted community events and offered workshops and free seminars. Overall customer experience along with quality of product and service became the hallmarks of the Apple Store, giving rise to a high level of brand loyalty among consumers. 

The design concept of the Apple store was revamped in 2016, when the then-senior Vice President of retail and former CEO of Burberry, Angela Ahrendts, unveiled Apple’s new store design concept, featuring large glass doors for the entrance and a crystal white glass staircase for its two-level stores. Its interior consisted of wide-open spaces decorated with light wood rectangular tables, brushed steel shelves for product displays, and video screens, as well as rebranded rooms for designated products or activities. Apple also expanded its offer of cultural and educational events, reinforcing the notion that the Apple store is a place where people can gather freely, and experience novelties. Apple’s new iconic and ubiquitous store design won architectural awards as well as the acclaim of surrounding communities.

SAJO has been building Apple stores across North America as well as in Europe for the better part of two decades. These joint projects have resulted in a strong partnership between the parties and in an ongoing working relationship. In collaboration with Apple’s consultants, Woods Bagot global architecture studio and Dialectic Engineering, SAJO has recently undertaken the construction of Apple’s flagship store, in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. The single level, 13,500 square foot store is situated at the busy intersection of 5th and Broadway, amid the city’s cultural hub. Its exterior façade consists of large glass panoramic windows which stretch thirty feet from the ground up, and its interior open spaces feature limestone wall cladding, white oak ceiling finishes, a freestanding Video Wall, and two rows of tree planters with integrated seating. 

Although the store’s location proved challenging, the construction process unfolded as planned, and the store was delivered on time, and in keeping with the high-quality standards of both partners. 

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