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No more waiting, IKEA's open!

Lucky early bird wins $5,000 gift certificiate

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They're shopping! At long last, IKEA Winnipeg is open.

Exuberant customers streamed into the store promptly at 9 a.m., peeling off layers of warm clothes as they grabbed their shopping carts. And as they entered, staff smacked noise makers heralding patrons' arrival.

"We're so happy and so excited," said Michelle Roche, who lined up starting at midnight with Joe Munroe. They planned to spend "at least three hours, for sure" at the store.

"We were just recently engaged and we're picking out our bedroom suite," said Munroe.

Another shopper said the opening was a long time coming.

"We've been waiting for years," said Jocelyn Shott, who arrived at 5:40 a.m. with two friends.

They planned to shop "until we see absolutely everything," said Megan Plett.

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said the two most asked questions he received as mayor were when are the Jets coming back, and when will Winnipeg get an IKEA.

"Guess what? They're both here," he said in his remarks.

Just minutes before, there was an official ribbon cutting and an aboriginal hoop dance.

Safe to say cash registers will be red hot today at the mega-store at Sterling Lyon Parkway and Kenaston Boulevard.

And Trish Kekropidis has a lot more money to spend today than she did when she lined up late Tuesday night.

Kekropidis won the top prize of a $5,000 gift certificate to the store when she used an Allen key to open the right door this morning. Just six lucky early-bird shoppers received a key to try, and the winner gave out a mighty scream when she won.

Kekropidis said she and a few family members lined up at 11 p.m. and were 320th in line. But the first 1,000 people had a shot at one of the keys.

The first 1,000 all received a $75 gift card.

Hundreds and hundreds lined up overnight waiting for the IKEA grand opening -- but they were nice and toasty warm inside the new superstore.

"It depended on the weather. We decided (Tuesday) night to let everyone inside," Alicia Zoffranieri, one of the white-parka clad public relations people wandering the site, said early today.

People stood inside IKEA and the line snaked through the cashier area. But by 7 a.m., everyone was asked to wait outside again as the final preparations were made for the big opening ceremonies that began at 7:30 a.m.

Katz and Premier Greg Selinger were there for the festivities.

Police were on hand to help with traffic control, firefighters and an ambulance are also standing by.

Just after 7:30 a.m., more than 350 co-workers whooped and applauded during a pre-opening pep talk by store manager Stephen Bobko.

Outside the store, it was like Mardi Gras in November as speakers blasted dance music to the growing horde of customers. Heaters were placed strategically in the line to minimize the morning chill.

On Tuesday night,  many IKEA fanatics set up camp to be among the first inside Winnipeg’s new furniture giant.

Chantal Drury and Heather Oliphant made themselves at home just after 3 p.m. at the A&W across the street. They got comfy to wait until 12:01 a.m. when security was scheduled to officially let eager shoppers onto the premises to wait.

"We are so ready for this. We’re diehards," Drury said.

Drury packed herself an "IKEA overnight bag" — a homemade survival pack complete with blankets, a scarf, mitts, water and snacks.

"This is my first time that I’m going to be at IKEA. It’s kind of exciting because not only are you getting a $75 gift card but also you get to be a part of something really exciting," Drury said. "Absolutely I will be also eating a Swedish meatball at 9 a.m."

Oliphant was excited for midnight to hit, to celebrate her birthday. "I’m getting an IKEA for my birthday. That’s what I asked for and it came to me," Oliphant said. "I have a cake and I’m going to wait and I’m hoping I can find a shoe organizer."

Pilar Francisco packed her three kids, Phoebe, 12, Paul, 11, and Lucas, 4, for the overnight wait. Francisco was planning to stay overnight in their car in the IKEA parking lot.

"We came at around 4 o’clock. We got turned away by the guard," Francisco said.

Like thousands of Winnipeggers, Thomas Steen was eagerly awaiting the grand opening today.

But unlike almost every other fan of the Swedish furniture maker, it’s not the assemble-it-yourself Billy bookcases or Kivik sofas that has the native of Stockholm excited.

"I’ll get to have some lingonberry sauce," the current city councillor and former Winnipeg Jet said Tuesday.

"I grew up with it. It’s very similar to cranberries. When you grow up as a kid with lingonberries, (having them again) is a little bit special."

Steen will be one of the dignitaries on hand at the opening ceremonies. Katz and Selinger will address the crowd at 8:30 a.m. before cutting the ribbon a half-hour later.

Steen isn’t the first former Jet to take an interest in IKEA. Two-thirds of the most famous line in the city’s hockey history thought it could work here in the 1970s.

"IKEA in Winnipeg sounds right to me, only 35 years late," said Anders Hedberg, who played four seasons with the Jets from 1974-78. "Ulf (Nilsson) and I actually tried to get a franchise when we were part of the Hot Line (with Bobby Hull)."

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca


History

Updated on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 10:51 PM CST: Update

November 28, 2012 at 7:41 AM: Updated with early morning crowds.

8:20 AM: Updates with lucky shopper winning $5,000.

9:22 AM: Updates with doors open for business.

12:21 PM: corrects spelling of Heather Oliphant

12:53 PM: Makes minor changes to chronology

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