Apple hosted a press reception to mark the opening of its flagship San Francisco Union Square Apple Store last night.

The company's been trying to get its hands on a retail outlet here for some time, Apple’s senior vice president of retail Ron Johnson told CNet: "Our very first priority was to get a spot in San Francisco, which is our hometown."

The store opens tomorrow with a series of free gifts, goodie bags and other inducements for the shop's first customers. Set across two floors this outlet will have 770 employees speaking a total of 15 different languages between them, including Windows.

"One language they all speak is Windows," quipped Johnson. "That's really important if you are trying to switch people to Macs".

To mark the opening, Apple's offering its first few hundred visitors a chance to buy a lucky "grab bag" for $250. Some of these will contain an iPod mini, and the value of the contents of the bags sold in this promotional offer will be between $600-$1,000, Johnson said. The first 2,500 people to visit the store will receive a free Apple Commemorative T-shirt.

Such grab bags have become a consumer phenomenon in Japan, Wired reports, with reports of shoppers being trampled to death in their eagerness to get their hands on one.

Apple's new corner shop offers a unique stainless steel and glass exterior and an all-glass staircase inside. Additional features include: a stainless steel and glass exterior and an all-glass staircase indoors; a 14-seat Genius Bar; an Internet café; a 39-seat state-of-the-art theatre for workshops and demonstrations; over 250 customer events each month; a dedicated Mac software section and a children's area.

Johnson said that Apple continues to learn from its experience with retail. When they launched, Apple asked its shop workers to track what questions they were asked, but canned this move once it found it meant its workers were engaged in administration rather than customer ministration.

Apple’s San Francisco store opens tomorrow Saturday, February 28 at 10am PST (6pm GMT).