Mom bloggers live on Facebook, holding catalogs with bedroom sets circled in pen.
Families playing hooky to get a free couch and taking another day off just to put it together.
A whole other slew of people there only for the free food.
Welcome to Columbus, IKEA.
The line to get in was consistently between a few hundred and a few thousand people long, and traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it would be at the Swedish superstore’s grand opening last month. Now we can all breathe a sigh of relief we won’t have to hear about it anymore. Joke’s on you for reading this article.
I anxiously refreshed my newsfeed all morning, long waiting to hear about some mom fighting a teenager over a free EKTORP sofa, but none surfaced. IKEA took what could have been a nightmare and made it into a party. They covered all their bases: co-workers (the IKEA-fied term for the guys and gals in the yellow and blue shirts) with IKEA boom sticks, music blaring, and a chef walking around with some of their iconic meatballs.
I can be honest: I was there for the meatballs.
If you’ve never experienced an IKEA before, here’s the rundown: it’s a Swedish-based furniture and home goods company. They design and sell affordable, ready-to-build products for your home, office, garden, wherever. Their whole ideology is to save you money by flat-packing products so more items can be shipped to stores at once. You shove the flat boxes in your trunk and build the furniture yourself, unless you feel like spending the extra $59 delivery rate or paying more to have someone put it together for you.
They emphasize a respect for the environment by using as little packaging as possible; products are made from sustainable materials and they educate guests about green designs throughout the store. The 2017 catalog emphasizes how food brings people together, so the store displays and café reflect that philosophy with big tables set for families.
“IKEA has the goal to bring a better life to many people,” said store manager David Garcia. “We take pride in our shopping experience and want people to make a day out of coming to our stores.”
Make a day of it they will. The news of an IKEA coming to Columbus was like a wave that swept across the city. First, you imagined the impending crowds. Then, news of the giveaways came. Followed by police rerouting an alternate traffic route to smoothly move the 50,000 expected cars throughout the area on June 7. People took off work. Some to avoid the traffic, some to save a couple hundred bucks.
Worth it? Maybe. In its first three days, IKEA gave away 44 sofas, 100 armchairs, 44 mattresses, 100 comforter and sheet sets, 200 plush toys, and 44 bags of Swedish food. Not to mention the drawings people could get entered into, and the 2,500 random prize envelopes.
People could start lining up 48 hours before the store opened. At 9 a.m. on June 5, the wave slowly came into sight as 15 people rolled in with their tents. The next morning, a few more groups appeared to scope things out and have their chance at free furniture. Wednesday morning, a total of 600 customers lined up before the opening for the impending inauguration.
IKEA Loyalty Manager Derrek Shiveley said the staff tries to make waiting fun for the customers at every opening. “We play games with them,” he said. “Occasionally we’ll pass out our famous cinnamon rolls for everyone to try, too. We appreciate their loyalty, so we want to show it.”
At 8:45 a.m. the wave crashed. The opening ceremony started. The Swedish and American national anthems were sung. A ribbon wasn’t cut, but a log was sawed (because God forbid we forget they’re a Swedish company with Swedish traditions), and the doors opened. Cheering lasted long after the grand opening. In fact, I think I can still hear some as I drive by now.
IKEA Columbus is located at 1900 Ikea Way.