Inside Sonos' First-Ever Retail Store in NYC

Sonos
Courtesy of Sonos

       

Greene Street in Soho is one of Manhattan's few remaining cobblestone streets, dressed up with Louis Vuitton and Fendi stores on one side and Christian Dior and Jimmy Choo shops on the other. Tucked amidst the high fashion at 101 Greene, Sonos is sidling into the neighborhood starting next Tuesday (July 19) with the grand opening of its first-ever retail store, a sort of record shop for audiophiles that lets customers experience the full range of Sonos' surround sound speaker system inside any of seven listening rooms designed as individual houses within the store.

Walking into the space itself is a little like being inside a speaker; the ceilings are high, the walls are perforated to resemble a speaker's face, the aesthetic follows Sonos' white and silver color scheme, and there's a giant painting of Rick Rubin hanging by the door. The concept of "houses within the store" is the flagship's calling card and distinguishing feature; six of them line the left wall of the main floor and almost give off the initial feeling of walking into a life-sized Russian nesting doll. (Do the houses have houses inside?) The seventh, the "legacy audio" room, is down a flight of stairs at the back, dominated by a giant "wall of sound" made up of 297 Sonos speakers; eight of which are actually plugged in.

Each house is a 10' x 12' room with a distinct design and furniture and a different combination of speakers set up around to simulate sound coming from different rooms of the home; an app set up in the middle of each room walks customers through the Sonos listening experience, pulling in songs from every major streaming service and allowing guests to explore the audio options of the multi-speaker setup. 

"We found that getting people into a great listening environment that had great acoustics where they could stop and focus on what they were doing really got them to understand the product better," says Dmitri Siegel, Sonos' vice president, global brand who has worked on the retail project since its beginnings two years ago. "You can do multi-room, you can really explore the app, you can get home theater and music. We wanted to create spaces where we could create the whole story."

Part of that story, for the retail space at least, meant blending in to the music scene of a city with a slew of separate and distinct musical cultures. To that end, Sonos teamed with designers and illustrators Mark Chamberlain and Thibaud Herem as well as longtime Village Voice cartoonist Mark Stamaty (who also designed the store's windows and billboards) to design three of the listening rooms; collaborated with rare book archivist Arthur Fournier for an installation of old, out of print NYC-based zines on one wall (titles like Ego Trip, New York Rocker and Sing Out!). And in the "legacy audio" room is a collection of Thurston Moore's old cassettes, from mixtapes to noise records from the 1980s and 1990s. Inside that house, guests can listen to Bob Dylan on vinyl, if they're old or savvy enough to remember how to drop the needle. If not, the majority of the history of recorded music is a touch away.

"Once we decided to do a store in New York, we knew it had to be locally relevant and that we had to come correct in New York City," Siegel says. "We're not under any false impressions about Soho; we know it's an international shopping district now, it's not just a gritty, New York neighborhood. When you're sharing a wall with Gucci or Fendi or whatever, we know this isn't exactly Bushwick. But it still has its heritage and still has a really important connection to music history."

Next week's launch will kick off a full week of events that are meant to engage that local music scene, as well as the world around it. "We're going to do a lot of programming here, and mainly focused not on live music, but how musicians live outside their work, and how their home life inspires their music," Siegel says. That will take the form of pop-ups from local vendors (Frankel's Delicatessen, co-owned by Despot and El-P, among others, is having a tasting Friday, for instance), listening sessions, podcast recordings and an opening kickoff featuring Giles Martin, who helped design the building for maximum audio quality, as well as El-P, Moore, Nancy Whang from LCD Soundsystem, Kyp Malone from TV on the Radio and Walter Schreifels from Gorilla Biscuits.

"When I lived in New York, you could stop in off the street into Other Music or into Rock & Soul, Bleecker Street Records, any of these record stores and just listen to music and meet other music people," says Siegel. "That's kind of disappearing from the city, and it would be a dream come true to me if this store became like that. I hope that it's casual enough for people to feel comfortable coming in. And certainly it's going to sound amazing in here."

For now, the Sonos store in Soho is the only retail location in the works -- no other leases have been signed, says Siegel -- though there are tentative plans for more in the future. New York's Sonos store officially opens at noon on July 19.

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