Traffic-jamming crowds fail to materialize at IKEA opening

The vehicular pandemonium for which cops and NE Portland businesses braced just didn’t materialize. But, store executives still say they’re pleased with their opening-day crowd‚

Gresham residents Laurel and William Herrada camp out at the new Ikea store hoping to win a new chair, and the some of the first to shop new retailer.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Because of the limited access, and the perceived popularity of the home furnishing store, 40 police officers were standing by to unsnarl a traffic jam that didn’t materialize when the IKEA store opened on July 25.

The evening before the grand opening, we visited the store, and talked with some of the approximately 80 people ‚Äì who had come from as far as McMinnville‚ camped out, awaiting the store’s opening the following day.

Son urges campout
Gresham resident Laurel Herrada, said her boy had the idea for them to be one of the first in line. “My son, William, saw this new store was opening, and got all excited about coming here. He brought the tent up from the basement. I thought to myself, ‘Let’s give it a shot’, and we drove out here today.”

Their timeliness paid off: Store officials handed official “first-in-line” slips; the Herrada family held Number 11.

“Bookcases are something we need,” Herrada told us. “I’m looking for storage containers and stuff for decorating the kids’ rooms.”

Todd Barney of McMinnville passes time talking with a SE Portland resident, Jack Allen from Ladd’s Addition, as they wait in line for the store to open.

Sidewalk couch surfing
“I didn’t come from as far as some of these people did,” commented Portland resident Jack Allen, indicating the campers around his spot. “I live in Ladd’s Addition. I have a few days off. I figured I can come lie on a couch here as well as I can at home. I’ve always been curious about IKEA. And, I’m Swedish!”

Allen said, in addition to the chance to win prizes, he was shopping for bookcases and a new bed.

Daniel Silva, Connie Linthicum, Amanda Calvert, Quintin Dow, Shonda Dow (from Beaverton) and Aaron Calvert (in front) await the store’s opening at their “camping site”.

McMinnville campers
Connie Linthicum and several friends had their spot staked out just north of the store’s main entrance. “We came here from McMinnville, but I talked some of my friends from Beaverton into coming with us. They’d never heard of IKEA.”

Linthicum said she was a “huge fan” of the retailer because “You can decorate your whole house for low cost. They have stuff that nobody else has. And, I enjoy the whole shopping experience. I used to drive up to Renton [Washington] to go shopping!”

Fans flock to store for “love”, not prizes
One might think those who were “camping out” might have been intent on winning some giant prize ‚Äì but they weren’t. The store gave away 100 gift cards, ranging in value from $10 to $250; armchairs and “I Love IKEA” cushions. Any and all visitors through July 29 are eligible to win a $1,000 gift card.

“It’s nice to win something, but I came because I’m just nuts about IKEA,” Linthicum said.

Joseph Roth, US director of public affairs for the retailer, told us that three main concepts make their stores distinctive. “We have a unique product offering; all of our products are expressly designed for IKEA. The shopping experience is unique; our stores feature a restaurant and play area. And, the fact that our stores are in limited locations makes IKEA different and special.”

This knock-down furniture and home furnishings store’s restaurant isn’t a lunch counter ‚Äì it is a 250-seat restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also sell packaged, prepared food items.

Wins $10, and a free shower
We talked with Linthicum after she’d returned to McMinnville‚ she was still ecstatic about her NE Portland adventure, even though she says their party got an unscheduled early-morning shower.

“About 2:00 am, the sprinklers came on,” Linthicum related. “We got wet. But, people from the store came out and gave us new towels to dry off with and blankets.”

After the store’s opening ceremony that included speeches, log-sawing, and raising the American flag, the doors were opened.

“People were cheering us on,” said Linthicum. “We got a gift card for $10, our chair and a heart pillow.”

The devotee said she didn’t leave empty-handed. “I bought a mirror, table, bedding, dishes and big coffee mugs,” Linthicum recounted.

Not even the fire-department response to a report of someone trapped in an elevator at the new store, shortly before 6 pm of its first day, seemed to diminish the excitement.

This photo, taken on the store’s opening day from the EastPDXNews ‘copter (OK, actually, Rocky Butte), shows traffic moving smoothly along Interstate 205 and NE Airport Way ‚Äì and the IKEA store’s parking lot nearly full.

Calls it a successful store opening
“Things are still going well,” Roth told us about an hour before the store closed after its first day. “Our main parking lot is still quite full; we’ve had a steady stream of customers visiting us all day.”

Asked how many visitors they counted, Roth stated, “We don’t release those figures. But I can say I’m thrilled with the reception we have here in Portland.”

Apparently, a lot of home furnishing shoppers share the sentiment.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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