Google is ready to open the doors to its first permanent physical store in New York City, and thanks to a virtual press preview this week, we have a good idea of what to expect. This isn’t Google’s first physical space ever, of course — the company’s held several pop-ups featuring its hardware products in the past. But the new store on 76 Ninth Avenue, which will open Thursday Jun 17th at 10am ET, occupies the bottom of Google’s building in Chelsea and takes over a previous post office and other space. It’ll offer a year-round location to not only buy Google’s hardware (across the Pixel, Nest and Fitbit portfolios), but also get tech support for a broad ecosystem of products and check out new tech.
If you’re still reluctant to head outside or you’re not in the area, you can check out this gallery of photos or watch Google’s video to get a sense for the space. The company is quick to point out that this store has a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum rating — the highest ranking in the green building rating system. “The Google Store Chelsea is one of fewer than 215 retail spaces in the world” to have achieved this, the company said in a blog post.
It’s laudable that Google was able to create a physical retail store while upholding a high level of sustainability in its design and construction. But you’re more likely curious about what you’ll find at this store. In addition to being able to buy Pixel phones, Nest speakers, displays and cameras as well as Fitbit watches, you’ll also see third-party accessories like phone cases and other peripherals designed to work with the company’s own products. There’ll also be branded merchandise like T-shirts, hats, dog toys and basketballs for sale.
There won’t be any checkout counters in the space, though — you’ll have to hit up one of the store’s associates, who Google said will all have “a fully functional device that they can process transactions.” If you’re already a Google user, you’ll likely have an easier time at checkout, too, since the company said it’s “tightly integrated” the online and physical store’s shopping experiences.
If you’re looking to get your broken phone screen repaired, you can also head to the Here to Help desk in the store. Similar to the Apple Genius Bar, you can get assistance here for your Google devices, and the amount of time it’ll take to solve your issue would depend on the severity of the situation. If you have a cracked screen, for instance, vice president for direct channels and membership Jason Rosenthal said “that’s something that we can do while you wait.”
You could potentially drop off a device and get a same-day pickup alert on your phone. For matters that are more serious — “If you have a Nest Hub that’s been run over by a car, as an example,” Rosenthal said, it might take longer.
“Our aspiration is to really do as much same-day and in-store as possible,” he explained. You can also schedule an appointment for dropoff and Google will provide an estimate of when you can return to pick it up.
Beyond just buying and fixing your gadgets, you can also go to the Chelsea store to check out Google’s latest tech demonstrations. Near the main entrance is a “17-foot-tall circular glass structure” that the company is calling an Imagination Space, and it’ll feature rotating exhibits showcasing “the best of our products and technologies.” Kicking things off is an experience “built around Google Translate and our machine learning capabilities.” You can say something out loud in this Imagination Space, and it’ll be simultaneously translated into 24 languages.
There are also several so-called Sandboxes and Discovery Boxes in the store. The former are little areas set up to show off Google products in specific groups, while the latter are actual framed up boxes with custom transparent LED screens to show you more about the products inside. So far, Google has three Sandboxes in the store. The first features a simulated living room with a vibrating couch and a screen mimicking the passage of days and seasons outside a window. A projector beams cues onto the coffee table to let you know how you can interact with devices in the space.
The second Sandbox is a dark space with custom Instagram-friendly light installations and a Pixel phone set up so you can take Night Sight photos. You can send these to yourself after to share them — free publicity for Google! Finally, the third Sandbox is an entertainment room with a large Stadia logo (with furniture in matching colors) and some monitors mounted on the walls. You can play with the controllers provided in this room and also move a game from Google’s demo devices to your own phone, if you wish.
Google’s also dedicated space here for Workshops, where it plans to host regular events like “story time for families, cooking demos with Nest, photography lessons on Pixel, YouTube concerts and more.” Of course, it’s hard to think of events like this without wondering about COVID restrictions and guidelines. Google said its policies and procedures will “evolve in accordance with local, state and national guidelines” over time. For now, in-store associates will be wearing masks, hand sanitizer will be available at multiple places in the store and it will “at least initially (be) limiting the number of customers in the store at a time.”