Wednesday, February 18, 2009

'Charlotte's stimulus plan is yellow and blue'

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 11:03 AM

By Rhiannon Bowman

This morning, despite the icky weather, IKEA opened — 15 minutes early — after Mayor Pat McCrory and some of the company's top officials sawed a log, a Swedish tradition meant to welcome new guests. The crowd entered the store, screaming, to applause; the lobby was packed with IKEA staffers, some dressed in Swedish garb, cheering, taking pictures and offering high fives to the store's new customers.

Hundreds of Queen City residents waited in line, some for 12 hours or more, hoping they would be one of the first 100 through the door — those folks received a free IKEA chair. The first 2,500 through the door received a gift card, values ranged from 50 cents to $250. (Mine was $50, which is going to Twitter user @IKEA_Devotee. Even though she's been pumping up Charlotte citizens about today's opening for months, she wasn't able to be there this morning.)

ikea-009.jpg

Most of the people in line said they were there for the experience, not necessarily to buy anything in particular. Though, several mentioned the store's famous Swedish meatballs, available in the second floor cafe, one of the store's two cafes, as a good-enough reason to stand in line in the freezing rain. (They are good.)

More pictures can be seen after the jump.

The IKEA staff was uber generous. Throughout the night they brought the crowd juice boxes, hot coffee and snacks. The first person in line and the 100th person in line received a hooded sweatshirt. Everyone else was offered an IKEA-yellow poncho. A band started playing at 7 a.m. and a couple of IKEA employees entertained the crowd, dancing. (Though they might have just been trying to stay warm.)

I live-Tweeted the event, including Mayor McCrory's quote of the day, "Charlotte's stimulus package is yellow and blue." He said his number one goal is job creation, called the devoted fans who camped at the store's entrance, "Crazy," and said he hoped they enjoyed their free chair. (He meant the "crazy" part in the most loving way possible, of course; bless our freak hearts.)

When I left, around 9:30 a.m. with three trays of ginormous cinnamon rolls (6 for $4!), people were still screaming as they entered the store, traffic was still backed up and everyone I saw was still smiling. Maybe it's because the store smells like a pastry. Maybe it's because the store does represent a long list of new jobs for our city after months of lay-off announcements. Maybe the happy shoppers were hoping to win the $1,000 shopping spree. It's hard to tell, but it was a fun morning for everyone.

You still have time to enter the shopping spree drawing. All you have to do is fill out the form on IKEA's Charlotte Web site and take it by the University City store by Feb. 22. Good luck!

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