IKEA Opens to Crush of Shoppers

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It took nearly two hours Wednesday for the long, winding line of screaming, arm-waving shoppers to file into Michigan's first Ikea store.

The doors opened at 8:45 a.m. 15 minutes ahead of schedule and hysteria erupted as the Swedish home furnishings giant opened its 28th U.S. location in Canton Township, 30 miles west of Detroit.

Shoppers were welcomed by employees banging together inflatable noisemakers, led up an escalator and handed store maps, large yellow Ikea shopping bags and tape measures.

Emily Bertolini was one of the first to make it to the textile and rug section, using her knowledge of Ikea store layouts to lead her to the less-crowded areas.

The 28-year-old Wixom resident picked up a casserole dish, napkins and a dish scrubber. Her plan was to purchase smaller goods Wednesday, then return next week with a large truck to buy some big-ticket items.

"We'll wait a little for this to tide over. And next week we'll come back and shop hard," she said.

Ninety minutes later, rain sprinkled from the sky and employees provided shoppers with yellow Ikea umbrellas as they waited. The line still snaked around the side of the building despite a steady stream of people entering the doors 20 minutes after entering the line.

By 11 a.m. nearly all the 5,000 complimentary gift cards were passed out and almost every aisle on the two-floor, 311,000-square-foot store was packed with people and shopping carts.

Making her way through crowded showrooms, Janice Cheeks looked for design ideas for a newly purchased home.

"We're just trying to fill it with reasonably priced stuff," said Cheeks, 42, of Livonia.

She and roommate Robert Camparski, 42, saw commercials and news reports on the new store and decided to join the opening-day hoopla, she said.

In the time before the opening, prospective shoppers ate complimentary doughnuts, donned blue-and-yellow visors and enjoyed the stylings of a live band playing Motown hits.

Ikea North America President Pernille Lopez welcomed shoppers in an opening ceremony in the parking lot that featured the official "sawing of the log" ceremony and the raising of the Swedish, American and Michigan flags.

Lopez, who formerly managed Ikea's Pittsburgh store, said the No. 1 complaint she heard then was from customers complaining that there was no store in Michigan.

"Well, I've been working at it hard, and here we are," she told a sea of employees and eager shoppers, some of whom had been camping out since Monday, a practice encouraged by the retailer.

The welcome made Melissa Siegel of Livonia feel like her shopping experience was appreciated by the company.

The 29-year-old slept on the sidewalk padded by a thin blanket on Tuesday night and woke up at 5 a.m. by soundchecks outside the store. But throughout the night and early morning she was able to exchange stories and promote her artwork to others in line.

"I'm glad this store is moving more to the Midwest," said Siegel, who used to make 10-hour roundtrips to the Ikea store near Chicago.

Mark and Erin Weishar of East Lansing left the store with a shopping cart loaded with $250 worth of items including a down comforter, a wooden chair and an assortment of small requests from friends who couldn't make the trip.

Ikea sells 10,000 items, ranging from kitchen cabinets and sofas to coat hangers and potholders. Its stores are built around a do-it-yourself model that the company says helps keep its prices low. Customers can look at furniture in room settings put together by Ikea designers and then pick up the items they want in a self-serve warehouse. Much of the furniture requires assembly.

With the Michigan store, privately held Ikea, which had global sales of $18.3 billion last year, now has 236 locations in 34 countries.