Although IKEA Miami doesn't open its doors until 9 a.m. today, already there are hundreds of people in line, some camping out for more than 24 hours.
What inspires such fandom for a furniture store?
It could be the free sofas that the Swedish megastore is giving to the first 39 people in line this morning, or it could be the promise of being part of a "happening" that spans the course of three days and includes giveaways, music, and food samplings.
IKEA spokesperson Joseph Roth says these store openings are so monumental because there are so few of them. "This is only the 39th store we've opened in the U.S. Other outlets open that many in just one metropolitan area."
The Swedish chain's gigantic stores, averaging about 300,000 square feet, preclude the company from building a location on every block. Their rarity, combined with the fact that the store sells budget-priced yet stylish furnishings and home accessories often seen in designer magazines and celebrity homes, explains why IKEA has such a large fan base. Add in Swedish meatballs and complimentary WiFi and you've got love at first sight.
IKEA Miami opens today at 9 a.m., and although lines will be long, that shouldn't deter you from heading out to join the festivities. Roth says the store has been planning for this opening for a while. "We have 1,500 parking spaces in our garage and another 2,500 across the road with free shuttle service. We'll also have live entertainment, food samples, and surprises."
The store is also conducting giveaways through Friday, with the first 2,500 people through the door today receiving sofas, arm chairs, gift cards, and other freebies.
Beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday, the first 39 people in line will receive a free queen mattress; the next 100 people in line will receive $59 toward the cost of home delivery, which must be set up that day. Roth also points out that Thursday might actually be the best time this week to peruse those kitchen cabinets you've always wanted, because the newness of opening day will have come and gone and many shoppers will wait until the weekend to check out the store.
At 9 a.m. Friday, the first 39 people in line will receive meatballs for a year. The next 100 people will receive a tote bag that can be filled with anything found in the Swedish Food Market -- for free. In addition, the first 305 people will receive a free frozen yogurt, and all kids 12 and younger will receive a free kids' combo meal ($2.49 value) from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
This is the sofa and chair that the few who waited patiently for hours will receive. The plush hearts are gifts for the children who spent the evening camping out with their families.
Speaking of camping, Jeanette Mendez and Valerie Aguilar look pretty comfortable for a night under the stars. The two friends headed to IKEA on a whim around noon yesterday. At numbers 34 and 35 in the line, they'll each receive a free sofa ($399 value) for their troubles. Mendez says the staff has been amazing. "They've given us umbrellas, water, and put up these big fans. They're doing everything to make us feel comfortable."
In Sweden, instead of cutting a ribbon, they saw a log in half. This tradition marks the official openings of all IKEA stores. What you don't see is that the logs are precut and then fastened with a wooden dowel. Asked about the cheat, IKEA's Roth says, "It's hot out there in Miami." That, and the fact that Miamians probably need to brush up on our chainsaw skills.
Welcome to Miami. Will Smith would have sung about this if he only knew.
Miami's IKEA restaurant is the largest of its kind. Seating 600 people, the restaurant features individual seating, counter-height seating, and group seating -- all with a view.
The restaurant offers soups, salads, desserts, salmon dinners, and (of course) meatballs. In fact, there's a separate express line where you can order Swedish meatballs and a soda for five bucks without the wait.
Plasma screens, new for this store, show prices and calorie content for each dish.
IKEA Swedish Food Market manager Jose Vazquez and IKEA Miami food manager Jo Carter get ready for opening day. What are their favorite foods?
Vazquez likea the salmon. For $24.99, you get about a three-pound piece of fish, perfect for throwing on the grill this Labor Day weekend.
Carter admittedly has a sweet tooth. Her picks include the store's frozen cakes, orange and elderflower marmalade (spread on Swedish pancakes), and elderflower syrup, which she uses in cocktails.
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IKEA Miami opens today at 9 a.m. If you plan on going, the store has issued some guidelines that can be found on ikea-usa.com.