Used to be New Yorkers would complain about independent nail salons or pseudo-Chinese take-out joints popping up on every block. Then it was the national chains: a new Gap Kids one day, Baby Gap the next. These days, the ubiquitous storefront in Manhattan is likely to feature electronics, and not just suspiciously cheap gray market goods, but the highest-priced cell phones on the market. Call it the mobilization of mobile: Cell phone stores are suddenly everywhere.
“So many have opened up around Union Square, it’s like Cell Phone Avenue now,” says John Zittrauer, the manager of a city cell phone store with a slightly different ring to it from the many carrier outposts.
Zittrauer is running one of nine new Best Buy Mobile stores, which quietly opened all around New York a few months back. Unlike the Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Cingular shops nearby, Best Buy Mobile is offering customers a choice of nearly a hundred phones from multiple carriers, including pay-as-you-go providers like Boost and Virgin Mobile. The posters around the Union Square branch emphasize the diversity: “Your Phone, Your Way” and “Without Choice, We’d All be the Same.”