If Winnipeggers had a Merry Jetsmas a year ago, is there any doubt they'll have a Merry IKEA-mas this Dec. 25?
After decades of pent-up demand, one of the most-anticipated retail openings in the city's history finally occurred at 9 a.m. Wednesday when IKEA threw open the doors to its nearly 400,000-square-foot store on Sterling Lyon Parkway.
The more than 1,000 shoppers were greeted by thunder-stick-wielding IKEA workers as they went up the grand staircase to the showroom floor.
And then they shopped. Oh, how they shopped.
Terri Seguin drove from Sioux Lookout, Ont., with two friends on Tuesday afternoon to be among the first 1,000 shoppers when they arrived in the IKEA parking lot at around 6 a.m. Within an hour of the store's opening, they had loaded up a couple of large shopping carts with chairs, shelves, a dresser and plenty of cushions.
Experienced IKEA shoppers, they barely looked at the 55 display rooms on the second floor and went right to the shelves where the legendary flat-packed furniture is kept on the first floor.
"We're on maternity leave. This is our 'mom's night out.' We had lists; we were prepared," Seguin said as she loaded up her pickup truck.
Carla Oliphant and her daughter Heather, who was celebrating her 27th birthday, camped out at the A&W restaurant across Kenaston Boulevard at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday and got in line right at midnight.
Along with hundreds of other shoppers, they were quickly invited into the store's foyer because of Wednesday morning's frigid temperatures.
(Some customers were even prepared to spend the night outside with their babies.)
"It's fun to be part of the big moment. When we came in at 9 a.m., freezing cold or not, the moment was amazing. It was so cool to have all of the staff lining the staircase. It was really exciting and worth the wait," Carla Oliphant said.
Equipped with a list from her sister, she had no doubt she would exceed the $75 gift card she received in line.
"I'm definitely going to be spending some more money. We're here and we're shopping today," she said.
Her daughter was equally excited, even though she spent the first hours of her birthday in a huge lineup.
"It's a new dream that has been fulfilled. It was certainly a dream from the moment I heard IKEA was opening on my birthday," she said.
Being able to load up their vehicle with furniture is a welcome change from their previous trips to IKEA stores in Edmonton and Minneapolis.
"We didn't buy too much furniture then because there were always too many people in the car. We'd just buy random odds and sods," Heather Oliphant said.
With a party to host Wednesday night, she said she would load up her cart with a few coffee tables for her guests and some hardware to organize her large collection of shoes.
"And I'm going to get some frozen yogurt on the way out because that's my favourite," she said.
Just before the doors opened, the majority of the store's employees were given a rousing pep talk by manager Stephen Bobko (shortly after having eaten a pre-opening breakfast in the store's restaurant). They could be heard whooping and hollering while large speakers blared dance music outside to the many customers in line.
Allen key to province presented
LADIES and gentlemen, start your Allen keys, IKEA has finally arrived. Here's are some highlights from the opening ceremonies:
While the Swedish flag was raised, the local Scandinavian Choir sang the Swedish national anthem, Du gamla, du fria (Thou ancient, thou free). "We offered to sing more songs but they said that was enough," said Lanny Knutson, a choir member and retired Lutheran pastor.
Choir member Linda Cooper made the eye-catching blue-and-yellow fleece scarves worn by the choir, as well as some dignitaries such as Premier Greg Selinger and Mayor Sam Katz.
Selinger handed store manager Stephen Bobko a plaque with an Allen key to the province.
IKEA also donated $80,000 to Tree Canada during opening ceremonies.
-- Bill Redekop
Jets tried for franchise in 1974
IF Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson had been able to translate their magic on the hockey rink to the negotiating table, IKEA might have been celebrating a 31/2-decade anniversary on Wednesday instead of a store opening.
The pair of Swedes, who formed the famed Hot Line of the WHA's Winnipeg Jets with Bobby Hull, felt the store concept and style of furniture from their homeland had a great future in Canada and the U.S., so they inquired about obtaining a franchise for Winnipeg in the mid-'70s.
"Unfortunately for us and the customers in Winnipeg, (IKEA owner Ingvar) Kamprad and company said that they didn't have a franchise concept and instead wanted to own and expand by themselves," Hedberg said.
After putting three kids through college and several moves himself, Hedberg admits to being much handier with an Allen key than he was when he first came to Winnipeg in 1974.