With a symbolic log sawing meant to bring good fortune to one's home, IKEA Memphis opened its doors to a cold and eager crowd Wednesday morning.
"To Swedes, IKEA means home," said Goran Lithell, the deputy chief of mission from the Swedish Embassy in Washington D.C. "Starting today, I think that you might feel the same. At IKEA, we take our traditions, food, and household goods and fill the gaps in our lives from not being at home."
The 271,000 square-foot store is the Swedish company's first in Tennessee — the 43rd in the United States and the 392nd across the world. IKEA has created 225 new jobs in Memphis, and, reflecting the company's sustainability efforts, has installed the largest rooftop solar array. It's also only the third location with full LED lighting, in store and for sale.
"It's not just a store," said Lars Peterson, the U.S. President of IKEA. "We also try to be a good company in all of this by doing the right things. Our sustainability mission is something we'd like to continue. We are committed to doing good business when doing business."
Memphis City Council Chairman Kemp Conrad praised IKEA's "fantastic culture" for raising its minimum wage and extending a four-month paid parental leave to its employees.
"Hopefully that's a model other companies will follow here in the United States," Conrad raid.
Conrad also championed Memphis and Shelby County government for reeling the retailer into its smallest U.S. market yet. IKEA projects the store will bring 1.5 million patrons per year drawing from a 200 mile radius of Memphis. Based on first year projections, Conrad raid, that alone will generate more than $400,000 in sales tax revenue from outside the metro area.
"Since Memphis is the hub of the Mid-South, what that means is where we stand right now is not just a great place for Memphians to shop — it's going to be a destination for those coming from miles around," Conrad said.
Waiting since 9 a.m. on Monday, Southaven resident Kelli Patrick was first in line, shaking from the cold but excited to shop.
"I thought it would be a fun experience," Patrick said. "I mean, we get a couch, so that's fun too. But it's something you can say you did once in your lifetime and you'll never get to do it again."