November 8, 2017 will be remembered as one of the more memorable Grand Openings in Jacksonville’s history as the much anticipated IKEA finally opened its doors here in District 11. The retail giant IKEA known for its hundred thousand square feet stores, self-assembly furniture and aisles of home furnishings that command a shopping experience of hours not minutes has officially come to town.
The morning began as campers who had setup for several days were awoken by staff members just in time to get in line for the festivities to begin. On stage, a featured band kept the crowd of hundreds entertained as employees with noise sticks excited the crowd. The grand opening presentation begun as an American and Swedish national song was sung followed by the speaker’s presentation remarks, a flag raising ceremony, the traditional Swedish ritual of sawing a log and the grand finale of an employee parade that led all visitors to the front entrance and an officially opened store. It was a lot of hoopla for a store opening but IKEA may prove to be much more – a bonafide tourist destination for the city of Jacksonville.
The Jacksonville store, located off I-295, on Gate Parkway, is the 46th store in the United States and the 5th in Florida. Prior to its opening the closest regional store was in Orlando (other Florida locations include Tampa, Miami and Sunrise). The Jacksonville store is expected to draw customers from Daytona to the south and past the panhandle to the west and even as far north as South Carolina. IKEA is a destination shopping experience with the average visit lasting 3 hours. This store may finally provide the elusive incentive to entice tourist driving South on I-95 to stop in Jacksonville rather than racing through the city to reach their vacation destination.
As the keynote speaker, District 11 Council Member Danny Becton was among the dignitaries, including Lars Petersson, IKEA's U.S. President. In his remarks, CM Becton congratulated the company for completing the construction a little over a year after the ground-breaking ceremony.
“With a limited presence across the country, Ikea is a unique retailer offing a unique shopping experience that will enhance our city’s reputation as a retail destination,” CM Becton said.
So what’s the big deal about a furniture store? Ikea is a Swedish company with a world-wide foot print. It is famous for assemble-it-yourself furniture as well as its in-store restaurant that serves affordable meals featuring Swedish Meatballs.
The building is massive covering 290,000 square feet plus parking for 1,200 vehicles on the store’s total 25 acres. Initially, interest is so high that the company has arranged for offsite parking and hired buses and traffic controllers to bring in eager shoppers wanting to get their first look at this iconic store.
The store created 500 construction jobs. Now that it is open it is employing over 300 new full and part-time employees. Ikea offers its employees some of the best wages and benefits in retail. It has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Best Places to Work.
It’s hoped that this influx of new workers will want to live in District 11 and spend wages in stores and restaurants and service providers within the district as well.
Instead of the traditional American ribbon cutting, CM Becton joined Ikea U.S. President Lars Petersson in a Swedish tradition of cutting a log in half to bring the store prosperity and good fortune. Appropriately for its latest Florida store, IKEA chose to cut a log from a palm tree.
Council Member Becton’s complete remarks are as follows:
“Good Morning, IKEA customers!
As the Councilmember for District 11, I would like to welcome everyone this morning on this very exciting occasion. Today, we are here to help IKEA open their 46th store in the United States, Right here in Jacksonville FL!
Jacksonville is excited about hosting an IKEA store. With a limited presence across the county, IKEA is a unique retailer offering a unique shopping experience that will enhance our city’s reputation as a retail destination.
If you have not noticed lately, our city is booming! Just around this area, we are seeing tremendous growth with the expansion in The St. Johns Town Center and the new Southside Quarter being built just down the street.
And now, we have this 290,000 square foot IKEA store which will place us on the map, providing visitors far away, in states like South Carolina and Georgia, another reason to visit our city, stay in our hotels and shop! And no longer do folks have to travel to Orlando from North Florida to visit an IKEA store. Now Jacksonville shoppers can visit IKEA easily and more frequently and we can benefit from those purchases.
This story would not be complete without talking about the economic impact that this IKEA store will have on our city. This single store is employing over 300 full and part-time jobs within our community. These employees will buy and rent homes in our neighborhoods, will eat in our local restaurants and help bring important tax revenues to our state and local government. The opening of this IKEA store in Jacksonville demonstrates that strategic and smart growth can happen in North Florida for the benefit of all Jacksonville residents.
So are you ready to get this store open Jacksonville? I know, I am.
So, in closing, on behalf of the entire Jacksonville City Council and the residents of District 11, I want to congratulate Lars and the entire IKEA family as we welcome you into our community and our city and to celebrate this newest IKEA store.”
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Posted on Wed, November 8, 2017
by Carol D'Onofrio