Inside Apple Third Street Promenade: a luxe temple in SoCal

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in General Discussion
Continuing an occasional series profiling Apple's most interesting retail stores, AppleInsider ventures to Apple's Third Street Promenade store in Santa Monica, California.

Apple Third Street Promenade - Santa Monica, CA
Apple Third Street Promenade - Santa Monica,CA


Located on Santa Monica's infamous shopping esplanade, Apple Third Street Promenade draws the eye despite the competing sights and smells of the promenade, like perfume emitting from clothing stores, the homely cinnamon-butter aroma of pretzel stands, lights of street performers, and the cacophony of excited yells and foot traffic.

Apple is now an expert in creating buildings that are architecturally and aesthetically pleasing, drawing us inside whether or not we need new tech. This particular Third Street location has about it a sense of temple-like "calm," offering the mind a rest from the hubbub outside.

Apple Third Street Promenade has a calm, temple-like atmosphere
Apple Third Street Promenade has a calm, temple-like atmosphere


The design is well suited for California, where houses made of glass are conducive to status, wealth, and success. Now a global empire and a celebrity in its own right, Apple represents all of these things.

Apple's thick glass storefront
Apple's thick glass storefront


Inside, Apple Third Street Promenade has the look and feel of a sanctuary, where excited voices funnel into an echo-like hum associated with a temple. The temple aesthetic is further exemplified by the store's infamous glass facade. And inside -- potted foliage, grey clack brick walls, long, wooden tables, and dimmed lighting fill the browser with a sense of tranquility.

Accessibility: get out those car keys

Los Angeles is known for its year-round temperate weather, celebrity sightings, traffic, and sunlit beaches. It is not, however, known for adequate (or safe) public transport. Apple Third Street Promenade is reachable first and foremost by car.

Don't attempt to park on the street, as the posted signs detailing when, for how long, and for how much you can park confuse even the savviest of travelers.

To get to Apple Third Street Promenade, park at Parking Structure 6 on 1431 2nd Street. Park high in the structure and take the stairs for views of sunsets, palm trees, ocean, and Malibu -- off in the distant hills.

Looking out from the 6th st. parking garage
Looking out from the 6th st. parking garage


If you're European and think lattes are milky American devilry, get your caffeine fix at Espresso Cielo, located beside the parking structure.

Check out espresso cielo for an artisan espresso
Check out espresso cielo for an artisan espresso


Once caffeinated, walk a quarter-mile along the Third Street Promenade to reach the Apple Store.

The walk along Third Street Promenade is beautiful, and not one to miss
The walk along Third Street Promenade is beautiful, and not one to miss


It is a beautiful palm tree-lined stroll and a mere four-minute walk.

Closed, closed, closed

Because of COVID-19 and the decline of in-store shopping (that has yet to recover nearly three years later), foot traffic has significantly decreased on Santa Monica's infamous Third Street Promenade.

Apple was likely not anticipating that their minimalist design would, too, foreshadow the resulting minimal amount of shoppers as a result of the pandemic. Pre-COVID, rows of merchandise were pored and fought over by dozens of customers at a time.

In 2023, vibrant businesses on Third Street Promenade have been forced to close by decreasing in-person sales while online retailers like Jeff Bezos' Amazon boom, littering the promenade with darkened windows, for lease, and red closed signs in once popular buildings.

Apple was going for a peaceful atmosphere, but not for crickets. This is the case for many outdoor malls in Southern California, making the consumer wonder if in-person retailers and malls will soon become obsolete.

History, Layout, Design

Once named the Santa Monica Mall in 1965, the boardwalk pedestrian-only mall was modernized and rebranded as the Third Street Promenade in 1989. The esplanade is ocean adjacent, and one of California's many open-air, pedestrian malls that capitalize on California's warm, sunny weather.

The 17,550-square-foot Apple Third Street Promenade was once a tri-tier Borders bookstore.

Before Apple bought the property for 100 million, the building was a Borders bookstore - MarkMillan/CNN
Before Apple, the building was a Borders bookstore - MarkMillan/CNN


It was reconstructed into its modern, sleek design in 2012, leaving no remnants of the bookstore. With a price tag of $5,700 per foot, this Apple store rivals the most luxurious of retail properties located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Once Apple Third Street Promenade opened, the smaller Apple store down the street shut its doors.

Like any resplendent Apple store with thick glass walls, foot traffic and the booming of street performer amps are immediately silenced once the heavy doors close behind you. Just as diving into a good book immediately silences the outside world, Apple Third Street Promenade has been designed to do the same -- so that you can focus only on the content within -- and buy, buy, buy.

The building itself is a rectangular, one-story, minimalist space with grey brick that climbs to a crisscross metal beam ceiling. The ceiling itself is glass, with built-in sun shades for sweltering California beach days. This allows browsers to be swathed from the front of the building and from above in a pinky-orange California sunset, a daily occurrence in Los Angeles.

Visit this Apple store during
Visit this Apple store during "golden hour," around sunset, for a visual treat


The store precedes Apple London Brompton Road, furnishing the inside with potted trees, foliage, and natural finishes throughout for a green feel. In addition to potted trees, spot-lit ferns protrude from the wall, adding to the calming atmosphere.

The ferns and foliage within
The ferns and foliage within


This store is furnished with potted plants and ferns coming from the walls
This store is furnished with potted plants and ferns coming from the walls


There are a number of wooden cubes in the back for sitting while you wait to see your Apple genius for service, as well as a large television to watch. The television displays information about new products as well as how-to's and dates for Apple learning seminars, conveying the information and adverts silently, to maintain the unfussed, temple-like tranquility of the store.

The television is on mute, maintaining a calm atmosphere while advertising
The television is on mute, maintaining a calm atmosphere while advertising


Like many Apple stores, there is a designated corner Pickup area for the collection of online orders along a lengthy, wooden desk. There is ample seating while you wait.

Apple stores across Los Angeles

California has the most Apple locations in the U.S., with 54 Apple Store locations in California alone. There are fifteen Apple stores in the county of Los Angeles, with only a few of them boasting this earthy, temple-like aesthetic instead of the sterile, hospital-like fluorescent feel of some of the smaller hole-in-the-wall storefronts within indoor shopping malls.

Other notable Apple stores in Los Angeles include The Grove location, another outdoor esplanade. This location has a less beachy, performative feel in its location and is shrouded in luxury, including valets, fountains, string lights, and the pleasant echoings of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday throughout the mall.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    Store fits right in with the area shops. Looks nice. 
    gregoriusm
  • Reply 2 of 11
    To appreciate what Third Street Promenade once looked like, watch Pee Wee’s Big Adventure for the exterior scenes around his store. The shops on the street were very Middle America back then, before the street was reimagined as a pedestrian shopping experience, a walkable outdoor version of the then-current shopping malls.
    gregoriusmcitpeksFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 3 of 11
    Hard to believe it could be this quiet with all those hard, echoey surfaces. I can barely spend more than ten minutes in my local inside mall store (Brea) without my ears bleeding. Surprised my Apple Watch has not given me the dangerous noise environment warning yet!
  • Reply 4 of 11
    Lila, it's a nice profile of the store, but your language could use some tweaking. You call this Apple Store a "temple" in the headline, implying that this is a location we should revere. But in your first sentence and in two other places, you describe its location and/or the store itself as "infamous" — a negative term that is not a synonym for "famous." In fact, you spent the first half of the article describing the serenity of the store and Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. It's only in the "Closed, closed, closed" section (when you employ term "infamous" for the third time) that you start describing anything negative about the location.

    The series profiling Apple's most interesting retail stores would be better served by recognizing this particular store for what it remains, which is a prominent example of Apple's fantastic architectural design (including its famous, not infamous, glass facades). You could 
    certainly call this store a great design in a location that has recently started to become infamous amongst local shoppers due to pandemic-related closings of other high-end retailers. This Santa Monica shopping district is probably neither famous nor infamous beyond people who live nearby and/or shopping industry executives.

    Might the neighborhood's current downward trend eventually have an effect on this Apple location? Of course. But one could argue that the Apple Store itself is not infamous nor the reason for the decline of the Third Street Promenade.
    edited January 2023 SpitbathgregoriusmroundaboutnowcitpeksFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 5 of 11
    Meh, the E/Expo Line light rail station is a few blocks away. I use Metro all the time, overall it’s not bad, just needs more cleaning. I just don’t go to that one because the area attracts too many tourists when I can go to the downtown Theater store, Century City, or even the twin stores (Galleria and Americana, they’re across the street from each other) in Glendale. 
    Japhey
  • Reply 6 of 11
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,439member
    I used to work at the Promenade back in middle of 1990's. I do definitely remember the Borders bookstore as I used to go there. So sad to see many bookstores closed due to the abundance of ebooks.
    gregoriusm
  • Reply 7 of 11
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,769member
    Lila, it's a nice profile of the store, but your language could use some tweaking. You call this Apple Store a "temple" in the headline, implying that this is a location we should revere. But in your first sentence and in two other places, you describe its location and/or the store itself as "infamous" — a negative term that is not a synonym for "famous." In fact, you spent the first half of the article describing the serenity of the store and Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. It's only in the "Closed, closed, closed" section (when you employ term "infamous" for the third time) that you start describing anything negative about the location.

    The series profiling Apple's most interesting retail stores would be better served by recognizing this particular store for what it remains, which is a prominent example of Apple's fantastic architectural design (including its famous, not infamous, glass facades). You could certainly call this store a great design in a location that has recently started to become infamous amongst local shoppers due to pandemic-related closings of other high-end retailers. This Santa Monica shopping Why is probably neither famous nor infamous beyond people who live nearby and/or shopping industry executives.

    Might the neighborhood's current downward trend eventually have an effect on this Apple location? Of course. But one could argue that the Apple Store itself is not infamous nor the reason for the decline of the Third Street Promenade.
    I also came to see if any locals could explain why this location is “infamous”.  

    Other than that, I’m really enjoying the series so far. 
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 8 of 11
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,769member
    netrox said:
    I used to work at the Promenade back in middle of 1990's. I do definitely remember the Borders bookstore as I used to go there. So sad to see many bookstores closed due to the abundance of ebooks.
    I totally agree. We had a Borders that was also inside a Promenade back in Ohio. It used to be one of the best places to go disappear for a few hours. So sad places like that are disappearing. 
  • Reply 9 of 11
    fred1fred1 Posts: 1,118member
    Hard to believe it could be this quiet with all those hard, echoey surfaces. I can barely spend more than ten minutes in my local inside mall store (Brea) without my ears bleeding. Surprised my Apple Watch has not given me the dangerous noise environment warning yet!
    I was wondering about the acoustics as well. The Palo Alto, CA store has the same design, with the same hard surfaces on all six sides, and it’s terrible. They did a much better job with the nearby (and later) Stanford Shopping Center store, with fabric on most of the walls. 
    I’m guessing that the Santa Monica store was built around the same time as the one in Palo Alto.
    citpeksFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 10 of 11
    Hard to believe it could be this quiet with all those hard, echoey surfaces. I can barely spend more than ten minutes in my local inside mall store (Brea) without my ears bleeding. Surprised my Apple Watch has not given me the dangerous noise environment warning yet!

    Spoiler -- it's not.  Those screens on the glass ceiling are needed not only for acoustics, but also as shade, because a greenhouse roof is also serves to make the space nice and toasty.

    I, too, remember when 3rd street was a bunch of mom/pop local businesses, including a military surplus store, and a cosmetology training salon.  Also a lot empty storefronts.  It was a moribund place that wasn't really attractive.

    The redevelopment turned it into a shopping/eating/entertainment destination, and it drew even more people after a shooting incident in Westwood probably served as the genesis of its decline.  It was the westside destination people flocked to before the Promenade rose, not only with students from adjacent UCLA, but from other areas.

    The adjacent enclosed mall at the southern end of 3rd street, Santa Monica Place, also benefited, then later suffered, as its mix of middling stores, with Sears as one of its anchors, weren't as hip as the mix just outside, or those at the late Westside Pavilion (now redeveloped into offices), which had Nordstrom as an anchor.  The interior mall scenes early in Terminator 2 were shot at SMP.  It was revamped and turned into an open-air mall years ago.

    All normal changes in the ebb/flow cycles of urban renewal and decline.  In the same time frame, Century City also had a lot of money invested in it, after being acquired by Westfield

    I can't think of what makes the Promenade "infamous," but I'm curious to find out.
    edited January 2023 FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 11 of 11
    What a pleasant surprise—a piece published on a tech-site that illustrates what good writing can do for the content: This piece is a joy to read, in contrast to the overwhelming majority of articles on most tech-sites, where the gut-wrenching abuse of the English language makes it a struggle to access the content!
    —thank you 🙏
    FileMakerFeller
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