I'm going to start this off by answering my own question. I think the flat out coolest, most impressive retail store I've seen in the past year is the Nespresso store on Madison Avenue in New York. I was stunned by the beauty and attention to detail.
I would encourage you to flip through the pictures, but let me point out a few things that impressed me:
1. Unique design elements: (http://www1.nespresso.com/precom/contact/index_boutique_us_en.html?ref=NewYork2&img_index=04
). You can't see it well, but these lit bowls contain coffee at each stage of the process > berries > green beans > roasted beans > ground coffee > Nespresso coffee pods. I had never been able to pick up a handful of coffee berries before and this was a really cool design element that drove home the point that Nespresso's little plastic capsules contain real, high quality coffee. As importantly, this little element is in the HALLWAY between the cafe in the front of the store and the retail space in back. Most retailer would have just put some pictures on the wall.
2. Consultation OR convenience: (http://www1.nespresso.com/precom/contact/index_boutique_us_en.html?ref=NewYork2&img_index=05
). You could browse each of their products and coffees on your own, or setp up to the beautiful retail counter and be served - your choice - no pressure.
3. Retail and Cafe: (http://www1.nespresso.com/precom/contact/index_boutique_us_en.html?ref=NewYork2&img_index=06
). Since Nespresso's machines are available from many different retailers, the point of the store is to allow people to "Experience Nespresso". Driving sales at this location is secondary. As such, their decision to put the cafe up front and the retail space in back makes perfect sense. Both were done exceptionally well, and the spaces were very well divided so that the noise and bustle of the cafe didn't overlap with the brightly lit and quiet retail space in back.
I don't drink much coffee anymore, but I did buy a Nespresso machine for my home and my wife and I LOVE the option of having a perfectly prepared gourmet espresso in a matter of seconds. Very cool store, very cool product.