With visions of Ivars and Billys dancing in their heads, thousands of Brooklynites filed into the borough’s brand new Ikea on opening day, Wednesday, June 18th.
The grand opening of the Red Hook super store, a brilliant blue and yellow box on the waterfront at 1 Beard Street, had been anticipated for months.
But, in the last few days, excitement had built to a crescendo, with people lining up from Monday morning on, hoping to be among the first 35 customers to snag a free couch for their efforts, or, failing that, to get one of 100 free armchairs the innovative furniture retailer was giving away to determined early birds.
A carnival atmosphere certainly prevailed outside the store as the opening ceremonies commenced, and the crowd – many wearing balloon hats in blue and yellow or holding blue and yellow umbrellas that had been distributed to them on line – listened to the obligatory speeches, politely eager nonetheless to get to the goods.
“The celebration has officially begun,” pronounced an Ikea executive before a group of dignitaries commenced a traditional Swedish log-sawing to bring good fortune to the store, its customers and its new waterfront home.
Borough President Marty Markowitz was conspicuously present, welcoming the Swedish retailer to “the republic of Brooklyn” and reminding them, “If you want to make a big splash in New York City, you’ve got to make it in Brooklyn.”
Finally, the countdown began, and, with a beating of drums, the first customers were welcomed into the emporium, handed pens and water bottles and other Ikea-themed freebies, and let loose among the Leksviks.
As Ikea’s first shoppers made their way around the new Red Hook store, they seemed smitten by the colorful home furnishing displays.
“The layout I think is great. It’s easy to maneuver around,” Flatbush resident Carol Grant said as she tapped a shiny white countertop.
“It’s a real convenience,” enthused another customer who said she had made the trek from the Kings Plaza area the night before the store opened, looked at the line, and then went home to wait out the night before returning to take the plunge.
Two Park Slope residents – new Brooklynites who had relocated from Canada – calmly pushed a stroller through the melee. “We need furniture,” Melanie and Zack explained. “We’ve been to Ikea lots of times. We picked out everything we wanted on line so we’re just here to pick it up.”
Others, however, spent their time opening drawers and doors and bouncing on couches. “It’s awesome, but sort of small,” was the verdict of one shopper getting up from a minimalist sofa near the entrance.
Diana, who lives in Bay Ridge, said she had gotten to the store at 5:30 a.m. She wasn’t just planning on browsing, she said. “I brought some dough,” she confessed, “but I’m not going to say how much.”
While the grand opening celebration appeared to proceed smoothly, there were a few glitches.
Shoppers spent 30 or so minutes on staggeringly long check out lines and when it was their time to pay, some items didn’t have scannable bar codes and managers were unreachable by phone – as they were “all on the floor,” according to a cashier.
Nonetheless, a prospective shopper suspects the furniture giant will have all the kinks worked out in the coming weeks. And those who mobbed the store for its debut clearly were more than beguiled by the bargains and the giveaways.
Brooklynites were happy to get their hands on Ikea’s cheap chic décor but they were most excited about what the new store will mean for the local economy.
“It’s brought jobs to the neighborhood. It’s going to revitalize the neighborhood,” Grant said. “I think it’s a great idea.”
The Brooklyn Ikea is the fourth in the tri-state area and the 35th in the United States.
—With Michèle De Meglio