SALISBURY — Ribeye and coconut shrimp gave way to cell phones and iPads last month when Verizon Wireless moved into the former Lone Star Steakhouse at 215 Bendix Drive.
Twice the size of the former location on East Innes Street, the steakhouse-turned-technology hub is one of two Verizon locations in North Carolina boasting the company’s new store design, built to LEED certification standards. The other is in Shelby.
The 5,000-square-foot store echoes the look of Apple’s successful retail stores, with an open floor plan and nine long, white tables or “demo bars” where customers can test every product before buying.
“It’s a very nice change,” said Jessica Jennings, 24, a longtime Verizon customer who purchased her first iPhone at the new store. “There is more space, so you’re not on top of each other.”
Customers sometimes walked out of Verizon’s two previous Salisbury locations because they were so crowded, said Derrick Walker, district manager.
Now, customers have plenty of space to roam and a plethora of electronics to keep them busy while waiting for the next sales associate, who arrives at their side with an iPad strapped to a wrist and a credit card reader ready to make a transaction.
Store manager Brian Ridge hired six additional employees for the new location. He now has 15 sales associates, up from nine, with plans to hire two more in January.
“We want to make sure we can handle the traffic,” Walker said. “We have already seen a huge influx.”
The Asheboro Verizon watched sales jump by 38 percent after unveiling a new store last year, Walker said.
Verizon would not disclose sales or revenue numbers for Salisbury, but a spokeswoman said growth in the local market was the catalyst for the company’s decision to open a corporate-managed location here.
The additional space and access to more products — everything from smartphones to home entertainment speakers — has improved the shopping experience at Verizon, Walker said.
“Customers can interact with the devices,” he said. “They can test everything we sell.”
The new location offers something else the previous store lacked — parking. Tons of it.
During his career with Verizon, which hits 12 years this month, Walker said one thing has remained constant: change.
“We are no longer just a cell phone company. We have truly become a technology company,” he said. “I enjoy the ever-changing environment that we’re in. We are definitely a company that puts a lot of energy into change.
“It keeps me feeling young.” Consumer Reports recently crowned Verizon Wireless the highest-rated major carrier in the United States. Verizon scored favorably in categories such as voice and data service, support, staff knowledge and resolution of issues in a Consumer Reports National Research Center survey of 62,253 wireless subscribers.
“Verizon stands out from the pack if you are a heavy-duty data user,” Mike Gikas, Consumer Reports senior electronics editor, told NBC News.
“They’re the Cadillac network. They’re pricey in some respects, but in terms of overall quality of service, they are the overall leader.”