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IKEA 'diehards' queue up for entry

Much-awaited big-box store opens doors this morning

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
A well-prepared Chantal Drury�s spirits are high despite the cold and long wait to get into the new IKEA.

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John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press A well-prepared Chantal Drury�s spirits are high despite the cold and long wait to get into the new IKEA. (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

With Allen keys poised, a few IKEA fanatics set up camp Tuesday evening to be among the first inside Winnipeg's new furniture giant.

Chantal Drury and Heather Olephante made themselves at home just after 3 p.m. at the A&W across the street. They got comfy to wait until 12:01 a.m. when security was scheduled to officially let eager shoppers onto the premises to wait.

IKEA by the numbers

At nearly 400,000 square feet, the Winnipeg IKEA store will be the company's third-biggest in Canada behind Montreal (the largest in North America at 480,000 square feet) and Ottawa (430,000 square feet).

Customers will cover about 1.3 kilometres as they wind their way from the store's entrance to its exit.

More than 120,000 Swedish meatballs and 20,000 hotdogs are expected to be sold at the store's restaurant during the first week.

The parking lot will accommodate about 1,470 vehicles.

The restaurant will seat 651 people.

The store will have 800 shopping carts, 175 stroller carts for kids and 600 flatbed carts.

There will be more than 50 room settings and two full-home settings.

The ball room in the kids' play area will contain 15,000 balls.

"We are so ready for this. We're diehards," Drury said.

Drury packed herself an "IKEA overnight bag" -- a homemade survival pack complete with blankets, a scarf, mitts, water and snacks.

Drury and Olephante were not only hoping to get their hands on some furniture, but were also excited to get a $75 gift card. The first 1,000 shoppers in the door at 9 a.m. are guaranteed at least that, plus a chance to win up to $5,000 in additional gift cards.

"This is my first time that I'm going to be at IKEA. It's kind of exciting because not only are you getting a $75 gift card but also you get to be a part of something really exciting," Drury said. "Absolutely I will be also eating a Swedish meatball at 9 a.m."

Olephante was excited for midnight to hit, to celebrate her birthday. "I'm getting an IKEA for my birthday. That's what I asked for and it came to me," Olephante said. "I have a cake and I'm going to wait and I'm hoping I can find a shoe organizer."

Pilar Francisco packed her three kids, Phoebe, 12, Paul, 11, and Lucas, 4, for the overnight wait. Francisco was planning to stay overnight in their car in the IKEA parking lot.

"We came at around 4 o'clock. We got turned away by the guard," Francisco said. "We'll wait until around 11 and I hope they'll let us get in and park."

Like thousands of Winnipeggers, Thomas Steen was eagerly awaiting the grand opening today.

But unlike almost every other fan of the Swedish furniture maker, it's not the assemble-it-yourself Billy bookcases or Kivik sofas that has the native of Stockholm excited.

"I'll get to have some lingonberry sauce," the current city councillor and former Winnipeg Jet said Tuesday.

"I grew up with it. It's very similar to cranberries. When you grow up as a kid with lingonberries, (having them again) is a little bit special."

Steen will be one of the dignitaries on hand at Wednesday morning's opening ceremonies. Mayor Sam Katz and Premier Greg Selinger will address the crowd at 8:30 a.m. before cutting the ribbon a half-hour later.

Steen isn't the first former Jet to take an interest in IKEA. Two-thirds of the most famous line in the city's hockey history thought it could work here in the 1970s.

"IKEA in Winnipeg sounds right to me, only 35 years late," said Anders Hedberg, who played four seasons with the Jets from 1974-78. "Ulf (Nilsson) and I actually tried to get a franchise when we were part of the Hot Line (with Bobby Hull)."

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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