|Rainy Day Magazine|
|"We Entertain When It Rains"|
by Carolyn Donovan
Little girls dream of ponies, big girls dream of an Ikea near their house
People have often said that the drive from Boston to New York City is a dull one, but I have to disagree. If you are an inveterate cereal box reader, you will notice the signs indicating what's just off Interstate 95, and I don't mean Foxwood's (or Mohegan Sun). There are museums, there are quaint Newe Englande townes, there are places to eat (although that "Vegetarian Enclave" sign somewhere in Connecticut? It's a boxed section on a menu at a diner that reads "Vegetarian Enclave." Contents? Falafel, hummus, salads, and maybe a spinach pie if it's the special).
There is an Ikea store in New Haven, however, that does not have a sign, it IS the sign. It is literally right off the highway, and it's a wonder that some momentarily-disturbed Ikea-phile doesn't just turn the steering wheel in the direction of the store and careen off the highway right onto the parking lot (yet one more reason to have airbags both under and over the seat...)
We have never stopped at the Ikea store in New Haven, if only because we're in the Boxster and anything I would want to buy would not fit anywhere in the car (and also because the driver of the car knows that stopping at Ikea for a "bio break" would be a really one). So I contented myself with getting the catalog every once in a while and hunkering down in the bathtub to read it.
A light at the end of my Ikea tunnel
And then, the rumors started: Ikea wanted to build in the metropolitan Boston area. You knew the people who heard the rumor: someone would mention "Ikea" in conversation, and certain people in the crowd would take a sharp breath, their eyes would widen, and they would press their lips very tightly together, all in decided mimicry of that secret 4th grade dream of marrying David Cassidy (if you spoke it out loud, or even admitted the thought to yourself, then the chimera would vanish and you would be left with an empty void that no amount of Charleston Chews could fill).
The rumors became fact, but there were problems: the original location met with heavy residential opposition on the traffic increase projections, the city parents (not just fathers) wanted the company to buy adjacent parcels and build low-income housing, oh, it just went on and on.
The rumors changed from building to abandonment: Ikea was scrapping the whole idea, and moving elsewhere. Those that heard the new rumor still said nothing between those pressed-together lips, although their eyes took on a desperation akin to the realization that David Cassidy might not actually love them back: even though they wanted to believe that Ikea was coming to Boston, they knew it wasn't.
And then, a billboard appeared: "IKEA opening in Stoughton, November 2005."
David Cassidy DOES love me!
Get in line - Ikea's opening Wednesday
RainyDayMagazine didn't have solid plans to visit the Ikea store in Stoughton on opening day, but once it sunk in that the store was less than 15 miles from the office, some of us became quite persistent in our, um, adamantations that we go.
Almost as many flags as the UN
We figured that since the store was opening on a Wednesday, and that we Bostonians (and those whom we allow to remain after coming here for college) are not like the North Londoners who sent half a dozen people to the hospital when a store opened in their area, the mid-week opening would be a laid-back affair, and we would breeze in.
I was a little bit right and a little bit wrong. There was a mile-long backup at the exit off of Route 24, but nobody was a mental case about it.
I spy...a license plate from Georgia
Ikea Stoughton may only be half the size of the Louvre, but it felt like we were all going to a really wonderful exhibit that we've all been waiting to see.
Oh yes, I've been wanting to see this exhibit for a long time
We were all very good, and there were many, many, helpful people in the parking facility to, well, facilitate parking (lots of people pointing with flashlights into spaces you would not otherwise notice in the unnecessarily dim garage).
ARE YOU A REAL BOSTONIAN?!? Quiz Question: How do you by-pass the mile-long backup at the exit and actually get to the store in less than 20 minutes from Route 24?
Answer: If you don't know, I'm not telling you.
Wow, it's just like a mall that has all my favorite stores - only I have to drive to them!
Come for the lighting, stay for the lingonberries
Is it now a Swedish thing to have an actual restaurant in their store? It used to be just a store thing -- the old Jordan Marsh and the old Filene's used to have them as well. Ikea has a dining hall. You fortify yourself for your foray with affordable food -- real food -- and then you up and shop your head off. The menu offered about five entrees, but they were great.
The overhead menus had pictures on their prices,
Ah, a face to the price
the food look exactly like the photos,
This was delicious - even the lettuce!
the people serving you the food were friendly yet efficient,
"She's no kid, what's she ordering the $.99 kid's macaroni and cheese for?"
the checkout moved, and the dining area crowded but not cramped.
Opening day at Ikea - just like at Fenway, only the hot dogs here are 50 cents!
You bus your own fine self, which I have no problem with, and my only thing, which is really practically inconsequential, is that the hot water spigot for the self-service tea was the fifth, unmarked, spigot on the four-spout coffee maker/urn/dispenser. All of the coffees were labelled, but the hot water was not, and so I wandered around the kiosk looking for hot water until I noticed a gaggle of senior executives nearby and asked one of them if they knew where the hot water was (signage note: if you create similar signs for four out of five items and leave the fifth without a created sign because it has its own label, no one will see the fifth item).
We had the Swedish meatballs (natch), the shrimp sandwiches, tea and a fizzy water, and split a Daim torte, which is made from a Swedish candy (Daim) that is a tasty combination of toffee and chocolate. Entire meal? Less than 10 bucks. I know where I want the RainyDayMagazine holiday party to be held...
I want this, and this and this, and oo, lookit this!
You know those places where they "create" a room to show you how one thing could look in your home? Ikea is not like that. Everything in their displays is for sale, everything! The dining room set, the placemats, the flatware the china, the candleholders, the candles, the overhead lighting, the rug underneath. And the displays are so varied that, honestly, one of those displays will fit into your design philosophy. Don't have a design philosophy? Well, just buy everything in the display and you're done!
The glassware is in the cabinet...
There are displays for every room in your house, many sizes of rooms (they even have a cute studio apartment display), and have branched out into business rooms (I think they're called offices). It was really a pleasure walking through there. And for some reason, seeing how they laid out their "rooms" made me, excited I guess I'd say, about what things I could to to our house. I would say it's because I knew that, more or less, everything I saw at Ikea was rather in my price range, even the 8-foot long wet bar with sliding storage underneath (but apparently I'm not getting that because someone else says we don't need it...). I could create, or recreate, a number of looks in my home, and it wouldn't break my bank. And that was a comforting thought.
Forget the Yellow Brick Road, follow the Black Arrows
Ikea does a good job in guiding its visitors through the entire store. As soon as you walk in, a very large sign tells you to go up the stairs to, uh, start. At the top of the stairs you can either go around the ballastrade to the restaurant or go straight ahead to your shoppping. Just follow the black arrows on the floor, they get everybody going in the same direction around the store.
There's a bottom floor as well. Most items larger than a tealight holder can be gotten from the semi-self-service warehouse facility on the bottom floor, which is another nice idea: show people everything you've got to offer them, and have them pick up what they want to buy on their way out (pencils and forms are provided). No shlepping big cardboard boxes through the store and whacking into things with them here.
I know those birch folding bookcases are down here somewhere...
Also on the bottom floor are the smaller things, in standard displays. We picked up two stainless steel insulated espresso cups and saucers.
Check it out, then check out
Checkout was incredibly spacious, and you could keep adding things to your cart right up to the cashier (those holiday decorations were looking mighty fine). A slightly alarming young man with a bad hair style and a Swedish flag offered to checkout our purchases with his hand-held thingymabob, which made our checkout all of 73 seconds.
Will that be all, madam?
Who knew there were that many Swedish people in the world?
If you haven't ever been to an Ikea, you will be pleasantly surprised by what's in one and how one is set up. Yeah yeah, you might hit some traffic on your highway exit as well, but that's just how it is. Ikea has approximately 12,000 items for sale (each store carrying a selection depending on size), and for those of us who are interior-decoratingly challenged, it's a great thing to see a whole room put together. You can feel things, sit on things, pull out things, pick up things, and move things around. It's a far cry from Internet and catalog shopping, although Ikea has that as well, and for the pure joy of touching things, Ikea can't be beat.
See you near the lingonberry jam.
|Photography by Wan Chi Lau and Carolyn Donovan|