A traditional log cutting ceremony just moments before 9 a.m. Wednesday signaled the opening of the Jacksonville Ikea store on Gate Parkway at Interstate 295.
The store’s 325 employees were on hand to welcome hundreds of shoppers, some of whom had camped out on the lawn behind the store for days, in anticipation of Florida’s fifth location. Other stores are in Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Sunrise.
With the line extending around the 290,000-square-foot building, Jacksonville store manager Leontyne Green Sykes, welcomed the crowd from a stage in the parking lot.
“We are as excited about opening this store as you are about it opening,” she told the crowd.
Following the raising of the American, Swedish and Florida flags and singing of the respective national anthems, a Florida palm log was cut and the doors opened.
Staff members welcomed the first shoppers through the doors by slapping together inflatable thunder sticks and cheering, which continued for nearly an hour until all the customers had entered the store.
Ikea officials said the Jacksonville opening was typical of other store openings.
“This is what we normally expect with our grand opening crowds,” said Latisha Bracy, public affairs manager for Ikea U.S. “We actually have had quite a great turnout here. I think it’s a combination of the excitement and people no longer having to drive so far. It’s a good crowd.”
Ikea secured an additional 1,000 temporary parking spaces off Gate Parkway east of Interstate 295 and shuttled customers to the store.
It will continue to operate those spaces through the holiday shopping season in addition to the 950 spaces the store has on its 25-acre site.
Known for assemble-it-yourself furniture, Ikea has hired more than 325 employees.
It also employs subcontractors to assemble items in customers’ homes if they wish.
“We coordinate all the services here at the store, but we do contract out locally for assembly once it’s delivered to the home,” said Bracy. “Part of what we really want to focus on is being a good business partner in the community and connect with local businesses, including contractors in who can do assembly.
“Even with the construction of this building we used local contractors,” Bracy said.
About half of Ikea’s customers, Bracy added, assemble their purchases themselves.
Ikea invested nearly $36 million in the Jacksonville store. It acquired the property in May 2016 for $13 million.
The grand opening celebration will continue through the weekend with special activities and prizes.
For more, visit IKEA-USA.com/Jacksonville.