By Elaine Omann
The doors of Jacksonville IKEA opened at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Many in the Southside area have followed the construction from the first shovel to the finished construction and the official opening ceremony — which was completed with the Swedish good luck tradition of sawing the log. To honor the Florida location a palm tree trunk was cut.
For the some, the grand opening included waiting in the line since Monday to be among the first to receive the free sofa and other prizes. At 9 a.m., Magni Partee made it in as the first person in line, followed closely by his friend, Devon Farrar, who was surprised to know they were planning to run in. The young men had been on the sidewalk area waiting since 2:30 a.m. and once registered, they set up their well-equipped tents.
Close behind them was Dionne Wellington from Orange Park who, like the others, had prepared to spend the next few days and nights in line till the doors opened.
The Vostrikov family, husband, wife, and grandmother joined the ranks in line to get their identification bands and prepare themselves for the adventure. A neighbor joined the Russian family in the experience and was surprised to realize it meant staying on site day and night.
On Tuesday morning Sam Donin, who lives in Village Walk apartments adjacent to the IKEA site, pitched his tent. Gizelle, another area resident who is the florist at Costco joined the line. The youngest child, a seven-week old baby girl Harper joined her sister, two-year-old Kalee and mom inside a big umbrella tent fit over a huge air mattress
Most people in line said they did it for the adventure, the IKEA experience, and of course, for the couch. Chairs and other prizes were given to the first in line.
IKEA had provided a cell tower for internet hook up, music, water, and refreshments. Campers brought coolers, games, books, beds and bedding.
On opening morning the campers had put away their gear and were in the front of the line near the stage and entrance area for the ceremony. They laughed and shared stories of their experiences with others.
The IKEA t-shirt was handed out and the line was growing in size for the ceremony. A man was busy creating balloon characters for young and old alike and a live band on stage kept the crowd entertained until the ceremony officially began.
The flag ceremony was conducted by the University of North Florida color guard with the three flags raised by the Chapter 38 Disabled American Veterans first for USA, then Sweden, and then the State of Florida flag. Anthems were performed and then the United States flag was lowered to half mast to honor the victims of the recent Texas shootings.
Leontyne Green Sykes, the store manager, opened with remarks and introduced the 350 coworkers who ran onto the site dressed in their yellow IKEA shirts and cheering and shaking the inflatable IKEA batons. Sykes introduced the Jacksonville store and was followed by Councilman Danny Becton, City Councilman for District 11 and Kirk Wentland, a representative from the Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s office, who spoke of the economic growth IKEA meant to the city.
IKEA’s U.S president, Lars Peterson, wished success for the store and community. A $10,000 check for value in furnishings was presented to the Jacksonville Zoo Education Center as part of community outreach.
Confetti was thrown by the IKEA workers after the ceremonial log cutting and they led the way to the store entrance. As people in line followed they were handed gift bags. Children received the hand and heart plush pillow.
The restaurant and bistro were opened and began serving the famous Swedish meatballs. Festivities continued through the week with prizes, discounts and special prices for the Swedish meatballs.
“When is IKEA going to open?” has been part of the neighborhood buzz for a long time. But no longer — IKEA is open!
Photos courtesy Elaine Omann
IKEA employees welcome the first customers on Nov. 8.