19 March 2009

confessions of an ikea junkie

As most of you undoubtedly know (and if you don't, you are very unobservant) I am a MAJOR fan of IKEA. But I'm not sure any of you know our story. So, here it is.

I have no specific memory of my first visit to IKEA. I know, are you gasping too? But I do know that my first visit was sometime in the late 80's. The first IKEA in the United States opened in 1985 (the year I was born) and is located outside Philadelphia, and the second opened in 1986 in Woodbridge, Virginia. Woodbridge, VA just happens to be about halfway between the place I lived when I was born and the place we moved to when I was 3. I have no idea when the first fateful family trip to IKEA was, all I know is that my creative, artist father took his family there and left my brother and I in the ball room (now called Smaland) while he and my mother bought furniture. And my childhood was then peppered with trips to IKEA, with my siblings and I always playing in the ball room while my parents shopped.

What I do remember, however, is my first shopping trip to IKEA. And I still have what I bought. At some point my father started receiving IKEA catalogs. And they became mine. The very first one we got to our house I spent hours poring over and selecting items I wanted for my room. And finally, one day my dad said, (not an exact quote) "do you want me to take you to IKEA?" To which I replied "YES!" So we went and I bought some pillows and little storage boxes (which I still have, like I mentioned earlier). And from then on I've been addicted. I go whenever I can: even when I went to Hungary I visited an IKEA and I have a whole collection of IKEA catalogs (although sadly, my very first one disappeared years ago), even one from the Hungarian IKEA. And I decided to study interior design instead of architecture because of the inspiration I always received from IKEA, and went off to college with dreams of maybe working as an IKEA designer someday. And, luckily, I married someone who now loves IKEA as much as I do (although for him it started with the food instead of the furniture). Every time we'd go up to VA to visit my parents (and then my grandparents once my parents moved down here) we'd visit IKEA, if only to have some meatballs. Like any other business, IKEA has comment boxes too, and every now and then I'd put in my two cents about them needing to build one in North Carolina (and the fact that they need to have a bridal/gift registry). I even got a letter from them saying thanks for my input and that they were looking into an NC location (I'd put a picture up sonce I still have it, but put it in a "safe" place that I can't find right now. I'm acutally pretty peeved about it). So when I heard that they were FINALLY building one in Charlotte I was ecstatic!!!! And after the long wait for it to finally get built, it opened February 18th! You know I was there. So, to go through the opening events...

We (me, Rob, Max, and my two sisters) had the wonderful opportunity of going on Valentine's Day, the Saturday before the official opening, thanks to our friend Megan's Brother-in-law and his family. They had a family& friends pass for that Saturday, but couldn't make it so offered it up to whoever wanted it and I snagged it!
This is the pass we had to put on our dashboard to be granted entrance: people who didn't have one were turned away at the entrance to the parking lot.

In all reality, it was actually a training day for the staff. And it was a mad house. But we managed to have a good time. And we were able to see fully stoked IKEA shelves AND I was the first person to bust open some bolts of fabric. It made me feel special. And here are some pictures:
Do you feel the excitement?

The first thing we did upon arrival was to eat. Max and I saved a table while the rest got food and Max wasn't too happy about it. Side note: don't you hate it when stores upgrade their products AFTER you've already got it? We have the same high chair Max is sitting in (one of the things I love about IKEA: everything you use there you can buy) but when we got ours, all they had was white. NOW they have RED ones. It is SO tempting to get a new one (maybe for Nicola?) Although I think that's the point. They are trying to make money.

Happy, fed child. (Their mac & cheese is to DIE for: I always grab a few bites)

And it doesn't matter if you already have the toy at home, the one at the store is ALWAYS better.

My biggest peeve about every IKEA, however, is that the children's IKEA is always the last thing before the restaurant and the stairs/elevators to the marketplace. It makes it and EXTREMELY high traffic area and difficult to keep track of your child if they decide to take off (since they're out of their strollers to play with the toys).

As much as I love having an IKEA here, I must admit I do miss my Woodbridge, Virginia IKEA. It was a little frustrating to know more about and about how IKEA works than most of the employees. Not to mention I'll miss the hip Asian/international crowd that comes closer to the D.C. area. And being able to stop by Potomac Mills (the mall it's right next to) to get clothes (I'm sorry, but even though we have the same stores here, they carry a WHOLE different type of clothes here. They are WAY cuter closer to a major metropolitan area). I think I'll even miss the all-day whirlwind trips we would take up to VA. Yes, they were exhausting and used a lot of gas, but Rob and I bonded on every single one.

Anyway, so even though we went before the opening, I was still determined to go on the official opening day. Why, you ask? Beause they were giving away stuff! Unfortunately, because the opening was on a Wednesday, everyone either had to work or had school so I had to take Max with me (no offense all you friends: there was no way I was going to drop my kid at you in the wee hours of the morning just so I could get some free stuff, I leave that for my family). Luckily, my sister-in-law Jessica decided to come with to help out (ok, she wanted to see IKEA too). They were going to open the doors at 9am, so my plan was to get there around 7. Well, I checked the weather the night before and it was supposed to rain. Not fun. And then I'm not a morning person either, so we got there at 8. Although we did hit traffic, seeing as how we drove an hour and a half right when everyone goes to work. And it was MISERABLE. It was cold, pouring rain, and just not fun. We couldn't even see the opening ceremony because of the sea of umbrellas. But they did open the doors 15 minutes early and I felt like a celebrity going in 'cause all the employees were lined up on either side all the way to the escalator up to the showroom cheering for you! The first 100 people got a free chair and a $100 gift card, but we weren't that early, but the first 2500 people got a gold envelope and we were early enough for that. I got a buy one, get one free cinnamon bun, and Jessica got a $10 gift card (which she was REALLY sweet and gave to me since she wasn't buying anything and I drove her). But Max was one of the first 100 kids, so he got a pillow! Because of the crowds, we made a quick trip through and I got a couple of items I forgot to get on Saturday. And we were out of there by 10am. Because of the rain I never even took my camera out of the car, so I don't have any pictures. I wish I did, but honestly, the rain makes EVERYTHING difficult. The night before I packed us stuff to keep warm and dry, but it didn't matter. We were still cold and wet. I wish I'd know just how difficult it was going to be. Oh well. Looking back I wish I'd have camped out starting Monday. If we ever live close enough to go to another IEKA opening I will!

Since I didn't have my camera these are the only pictures I have from that day. I got myself my favorite kind of chocolate: milk chocolate wiht hazelnuts. I don't understand why we don't use hazelnuts in the States: they are my FAVORITE. I savored this huge bar for a week.

And this is Max's prize! Ironically enough, this was one of the pillows I bought on my first shopping trip to IKEA. If he really is my son, he'll treasure it the rest of his life....

4 comments:

  1. LOVE IT!!!! Can't wait to go down there and check it out! I have never been in the store I have only ordered from the book!

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  2. Wow! I love Ikea too! There isn't one anywhere near me in Maine, so I haven't been in ages! Hopefully if I make it down to Maryland next I can make up for lost time. It time to refurnish! :)

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  3. I was wondering when you would get around to talking about IKEA opening. Anytime you need a friend to go with. I am game.

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  4. I LOVE IKEA! I go up there every chance I get.

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