IKEA opens in Charlotte

Posted February 18, 2009 1:26 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2009 5:10 p.m. EST

— Shoppers who camped out for days cashed in Wednesday when a new 356,000-square-foot IKEA opened in North Charlotte.

Marissa Brete forgot her pillows and spent the night in the rain to be among the first in line for the grand opening. The store provided rain gear for fans who suffered through overnight showers.

Hundreds of people were lined up for the 9 a.m. opening. "I’m more excited to get dry than to get into IKEA to tell you the truth," Michael Bell said.

Employees greeted customers with a round of applause as they poured into the store, seeking furniture bargains or just a warm cup of coffee in the cafe.

The Charlotte Observer reported on Wednesday that an estimated 2,000 people had already packed into IKEA's new 356,000-square-foot store in Charlotte about 30 minutes after its official opening.

"We have a limited budget, but we’re helping the economy," Paula Lash said, justifying her trip.

Sharon Salisbury left satisfied, with a bag full of purchases. "It’s been a good day," she said. "I’m glad IKEA is in Charlotte."

Mayor Pat McCrory echoed her happiness. He has called the opening of the retailer Charlotte's stimulus package. The store created 400 local jobs and is expected to draw day-trippers from hundreds of miles away to its first outlet in the Carolinas.

The city Department of Transportation reported heavy volume and traffic congestion Wednesday on Interstate 85 and along the local streets near the store in Charlotte's University City area. Special signage was in place to direct drivers to and away from the grand opening.

IKEA representatives said they expect the frenzy of curiosity and traffic congestion to continue in the area for a few weeks.

The Charlotte store is the Swedish home goods maker's 36th U.S. outlet.