More than 150 people, many who had been camping out since Monday morning, weathered the rain and chill to be some of the first Hoosiers to explore the winding maze of modern furniture and flat-pack décor.
Ikea Fishers features nearly 50 room-settings, three model home interiors, a supervised children’s play area and a 325-seat restaurant serving Swedish specialties such as meatballs with lingonberries and salmon plates, as well as American dishes and more sustainable options.
The 289,000 square-foot Ikea Fishers is on 35 acres along the eastern side of Interstate 69, just south of the East 116th Street exit. It is the Swedish company’s first store and restaurant destination in Indiana, 45th in the United States, and 408th worldwide.
Beyond modern, modular furnishings, the Fishers location will also feature one of Indiana’s largest solar rooftops, to augment the retailer’s energy needs.
Speaking ahead of the opening, store manager Holly Davidson said she was overwhelmed to see the crowd.
“Words cannot describe what I felt when I saw so many people waiting for us this morning,” Davidson said.
Like camping with friends
Hannah Orcutt of Anderson started waiting in line at 7 a.m. Monday, staking out her place as 43rd in line. Orcutt waited out the week in a leaky tent, spending nights fighting pooling water and collapsing tent poles.
“I love Ikea, and my friends and I just said ‘Let’s go,’” Orcutt said.” It’s been fun ... been like camping with friends.”
As one of the first 45 in line, Orcutt won a free Ektorp sofa, but camping out in the wind and rain was more than just a chance to get some free furniture.
“It’s been really nice," she said. "They have done a Zumba class, team games ... it’s been real fun.”
The atmosphere Wednesday was more akin to a New Year's Eve bash than a store’s grand opening, with a live band, DJ and dance party to get people riled up before doors opened.
Sarah Whitesel of Anderson said camping was less about Ikea and more about celebrating a community.
“I made a lot of new friends, sharing food, beds, blankets ... it's nice to see people have compassion,” Whitesel said, “especially after spending a night taking a flip-flop as a squeegee to get water out of the tent.”
More than just Fishers
More than just bringing visitors from across the state to Fishers, the retail giant brings ancillary benefits to the entire east-central region.
Purdue University retail specialist Richard Feinberg said the retailer will act as an anchor for more retail and business.
“Ikea is the world’s largest furniture retailer and the most-sought-after big retailer,” the consumer sciences professor said. “Ikea generally attracts consumers from a 200-mile radius.”
Ikea is known as a great place to work in most of its communities. Workers who put in 20 hours or more weekly are eligible for many benefits and additionally, an Ikea usually adds an average of 1.75 new jobs in new or existing businesses near Ikea.
“Ikea is a tourist destination above and beyond its retail function,” the Purdue professor said. “People go to have an entertaining afternoon. The arrival of this store is a signal that Indianapolis in in the top ranks of retailing and should be a significant sign to other national retailers who have yet to consider Indianapolis as worthy of their stores.”
An Ikea is also a boon to state coffers, with an average Ikea generating $90 million in yearly revenue.
“At 7 percent sales tax that’s $6.3 million in additional tax revenue,” Feinberg notes. “It’s important to consider that many people go to Chicago or Cincinnati to go to the nearest Ikea resulting in lost money for Indiana.”
Ball State University marketing professor Shaheen Borna offered several reasons for Ikea’s cult-like following and success.
Most notably, the Swedish retailer caches in on young couples looking to “build a nest” with affordable, modern furniture. Also, unlike traditional retailers, IKEA displays their goods in prearranged rooms, instead of piecemeal.
“Ikea sells room concepts — instead of individual pieces — making the customer an interior decorator,” Borna said in a press release.
Ikea also succeeds because it’s more than just a store or restaurant — it’s a destination.
“It’s a good place to spend Saturday or Sunday, enjoying relatively inexpensive meals at its in-store restaurant,” Borna said.
Not too late for giveaways
There’s still time for Ikea fans to snatch up gifts this week.
The first 45 people through the door Thursday receiving a free Haugesund queen spring mattress and the next 100 set to receive a free Alina “sleep set” that includes a bedspread and cushion covers.
On Friday, the first 45 adults will receive a free four-piece Sensuell cookware set and the next 100 adults will receive a voucher for 12 monthly meatball meals for two at the Ikea Fishers Restaurant through next year, expiring Oct. 31, 2018.
For young customers, Ikea is offering the first 100 children Thursday a free Gosig Golden dog soft toy; and on Friday, the first 100 children will receive a voucher for a soft-serve frozen yogurt available that day at the Ikea Fishers Exit Bistro.
Along with the giveaways, Ikea is offering free entertainment, balloon art and face-painting throughout the week.