AT&T officially opened its ninth high-tech wireless retail store in the Bronx at the Gateway Center on Friday, February 5. The ribbon cutting ceremony included a meet-and-greet autograph signing with former New York Yankees slugger Bernie Williams.
The AT&T store, south of Yankee Stadium at 651 River Avenue, will address the growing demand for bilingual service in the wireless industry. It is the 40th bilingual Spanish-English AT&T store in the region.
New Bronx Chamber of Commerce president Lenny Caro joined Williams, AT&T store manager David Mendoza and AT&T store staff members to open the store.
“We are pleased to welcome businesses to our borough that promote the economic vitality of our community,” Caro said. “AT&T is a welcome addition to the Gateway Center, which yields tremendous commerce and employs thousands throughout the borough.”
Crowds formed outside and as people waited for hours to meet Williams, who signed autographs and posed for photos with star-struck fans.
“[Bernie] was the nicest person you could ever want to meet,” Morris Park resident Tina Lewis said. “He’s a great ballplayer, but he’s also like you and me. I watched his whole career. He and Don Mattingly are my favorite players.”
Former Yankees batboy Luis Castillo was glad to see Williams again; the Hunts Point resident stopped by to say hello to the slugger who he remembers fondly.
“I used to catch for Bernie during [throwing] practice in left-center field,” said Castillo, a batboy from 1998 to 2005. “It was good to see him five years later.”
Mendoza is excited to manage an AT&T “experience” store, which offers the customers the opportunity to make phone calls, send text messages, and e-mail friends and family before they purchase a cell phone, iPhone or Blackberry. The store’s theme is “try before you buy.”
“Customers who experience the products first are more likely to be happy with their purchases,” Mendoza said. “If they come back, it will be to refer someone.”
It was Mendoza’s second AT&T store launch. He joined the wireless firm in 2003. Mendoza also opened Parkchester’s AT&T store, where he worked as a manager.
Mendoza’s Gateway Center store staff includes seven salespeople and an assistant manager. Many are bilingual; all are trained to assist customers who want to buy or who have technical issues.
The store’s hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at 718 742-3393 or firstname.lastname@example.org