On top of the sheer magnitude of the space, trying to wrap your head around what IKEA is will likely make your head pop. On the surface, it's a retail outlet for inexpensive and trendy housewares, furniture and other fun stuff. The top level features dozens of rooms filled with furniture and accessories to complement each lifestyle. Some are formal, some are fun and some are wacky. There really is something for everyone.
As you make your way downstairs, you're surrounded by every odd and end you could imagine for your kitchen, bath or the rest of your home. The prices are amazing as well. $8 for a wok? $4 for a box of candles? Cooking utensils under $5? Large area rugs under $50? It's truly amazing some of the bargains you will find. The secret, I'm told, is volume. They make and sell millions of pieces of inventory every month.
Thoughout the facility, you find little pencils and pieces of paper to make lists of what you want as you go. It's all stored downstairs for easy retrieval later. This keeps carts on the main floor and the upstairs free of boxes. Speaking of boxes, everything is flat-packed. This means it's easy to store, easy to ship and easy for you to carry home. I looked at the boxes for the dresser and bed I want to buy. They'll fit on the trunk of my Miata, no problem.
Beyond shopping, IKEA is a living community. It's a place to drop your kids off while you shop (Smaland), a cafeteria-style restaurant with lots of choices (all of which were delicious, mind you) and a cult of personality. The people who work here are the You and Me of retail, the hipster who enjoys the brand and works there because it is IKEA. I met a number of them yesterday, and I felt right at home. If you're fearful of young people who are all smiling, you may want to avoid this place.
Even before the store opens, their scratch-n-dent AS-IS section is full. You'll want to be there opening day to snatch up many of these bargains before they're gone.
For the rest of the photos, see my photo set:
Denis Baldwin can be seen crashing store openings all over the Tampa Bay Area in his own website, MyTampaLife.com