With a throng of fans waiting, anthems playing and flags flying, and with marching and dancing and speeches and applause, a furniture store opened.
Jacksonville’s Ikea opened for business on Wednesday morning — five minutes early — to end a two-year wait for local fans of the iconic Swedish retailer whose stores represent more than affordable European style with some assembly required. Just 46 U.S. cities can boast an Ikea store. Until Wednesday, the closest was in Orlando.
And if there was any doubt that it was just another store opening, the crowd that started showing up Monday was one indication. By 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, with the Be Easy Band playing, the line snaked back and forth on itself, 20 people deep in spots, before wrapping around the end of the building.
And then there were the employees, cheering and banging their thundersticks together, creating a pep rally as much as a store opening.
And there were speeches. The pronouncement that shoppers would no longer have to make that two-hour drive to Orlando drew the biggest cheers for the store’s manager, Leotyne Green Sykes, who spoke to the hundreds who had started lining up at 2 a.m. Monday in front of the big blue box at Gate Parkway and Interstate 295.
First in line was Devon Farrar, 21, who drove up from Green Cove Springs.
He said, “We really got here earlier but saw no one was here and went to Denny’s for three hours.”
Retired firefighter Alan Paul drove down from Waycross, Georgia, and got there at 1 a.m. Wednesday. That made him 135th in the queue, earning a free Poang chair and a gift card. He’d missed out on the Ektorp three-seat sofas going to the first 46 adults in line, but seemed nonplussed.
“I thought there would be thousands here,” he said. “I’m sorely disappointed.”
A company spokeswoman said it’s not uncommon for all those free sofa and chair spots to be taken 48 hours in advance.
“Every market is different,” she said.
But, yeah, Paul is a fan. “I think every business in American should be modeled after Ikea,” he said.