Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

IKEA hires Winnipeg manager

Furniture giant prepares to hire up to 400 staff

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STEPHEN Bobko is the new manager of IKEA Canada's first-ever store in Winnipeg and he's warming up the old Allen wrench to get ready to assemble the store workforce -- numbering up to 400 -- this summer.

The 12-year veteran Hudson's Bay Co. senior manager said he was caught off guard at the attention he received winning the coveted IKEA store manager's job in Winnipeg.

"Who would have guessed there would be such interest?" said Bobko.

But then he answered his own question.

"My wife and I were both born and bred in Winnipeg and we should have known," said the 36-year-old.

IKEA Canada spokeswoman Madeleine Lwenborg-Frick said construction is still on schedule for completion of the 350,000-square-foot store at Kenaston Boulevard and Sterling Lyon Parkway by the end of November or early December.

"Absolutely the hope is that we have the store built and ready in time for people to start their holiday shopping," she said.

While the company has a long track record of promoting from within, Bobko said that since Winnipeg is one of the only stores it's opened in a new market for a long time, IKEA wanted to hire someone who really knew the market.

"They felt passionate about finding a local leader that understands the marketplace and trading centres," Bobko said.

Right now IKEA has 11 stores in Canada, but a 12th will open later this month in Richmond, B.C.

It is also building a massive expansion to its Montreal store, turning it into the largest IKEA in North America at 469,694 square feet when it's finished in the summer of 2013.

Bobko's career with the Hudson's Bay Co. saw him working at all three of its chains -- the Bay, Zellers and Home Outfitters. He began his career as the marketing director at the Bay's large downtown Winnipeg store.

He transferred to Edmonton in the middle of the last decade to become a store manager then western manager for Home Outfitters. He moved back to Winnipeg a few years ago to manage the Zellers renovations.

Bobko's Winnipeg roots are deep enough for him to appreciate that IKEA is probably the most anticipated store arrival in the city for decades. In addition to the 400 people he will need to hire -- through recruiting and job fairs starting this summer -- IKEA is expected to stimulate other economic development in the region.

The store will anchor the Seasons of Tuxedo retail development where Cabela's, the lavish big-box outdoors store, has already committed to building a 72,000-square-foot outlet.

There is a total of 325 IKEA stores around the world in 40 countries.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 11, 2012 B4

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