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Monday, April 12, 2021

Orlando welcomes Florida's second IKEA store

ORLANDO - Jeremy Schrecengost said he came for the free Poäng.

For those not in the know, a Poäng is a snazzy armchair that was distributed free to the first 100 people in line for IKEA's grand opening Wednesday. The Orlando store, Florida's second in two months, opened in an event marked by long lines, screaming customers and lots of Swedish food.

Schrecengost, an Orlando resident, said he arrived at IKEA's new location Monday. He said he would likely return in a few weeks to shop because the grand opening would probably be too crowded.

Schrecengost had a point. The doors to the 309,000-square-foot store opened at 9 a.m. to shrieks usually reserved for boy bands and The Beatles.

Hundreds of people were lined up outside to get a peek at the Swedish furniture giant, and by 10 a.m., a line still stood outside the building.

As the first group of people filtered inside, they were greeted by a tunnel made of IKEA employees decked out in the store's trademark colors, blue and yellow.

The noise at the store's entrance was deafening as employees created a cacophony by clattering together yellow pill-shaped IKEA balloons.

UF sophomore Alexis Adler said she had been waiting at IKEA since Monday.

"I love IKEA. It's amazing design," she said.

Although many lined up two days in advance to be among the first to enter the store, no one rushed to pick up a Galant desk or a Klippan loveseat.

Instead, patrons leisurely strolled through the store, admiring the model rooms furnished with IKEA products.

Joseph Roth, IKEA spokesman, said he could not reveal sales numbers, the cost of the store or the number of visitors on its first day because of company policy.

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But the store had clearly been expecting quite a few guests. To keep everyone entertained as they waited to get inside, a man walking on stilts chatted with people, and pop songs including Europe's "Final Countdown" blared from speakers set up outside the store.

Michi Kajoh, a 29-year-old Orlando resident, said she was first exposed to an IKEA in Philadelphia and used to beg her parents to go there. She's been waiting for the Orlando store since she heard about it three years ago.

In the end, did the Orlando store live up to the hype? Maybe it doesn't really matter.

"I've been in love with this store since I was a 9-year-old," Kajoh said.

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