Amid store closings, one opens: IKEA comes to Charlotte

Hundreds of shoppers got their wish on Wednesday morning, when IKEA opened its doors for the first time in the Carolinas.

A group of employees stood and cheered customers as they entered the doors of the 356,000-square-foot store in Charlotte's University City area. The store opened 15 minutes before its scheduled 9 a.m. start time, but customers were ready.

A number of people had camped in front of the store for days, and by 9 a.m., it appeared as if most of the 1,700 parking spots in front of IKEA were filled. An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people were in the store by 9:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, traffic was reported to be heavy on all roads leading to the University City-area store. Authorities are encouraging motorists to use Interstate 85 and the IKEA exit as a means of reaching the store today.

IKEA did not plan on opening its first Carolinas location in the middle of the worst recession in decades.

Yet that's just what happened — and the Swedish home furnishings giant says it's fine with that.

"We're here for the long term," said IKEA USA president Mike Ward, a nearly 22-year IKEA veteran in town for the store's debut. "We wouldn't have opened here if we didn't really believe in (Charlotte) and the fact that it's a good market for us."


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