Monday, February 09, 2009

Ode to Ikea

An article in last week's business section announced, to readers' unanimous dismay, that once again London will not be getting an Ikea store. The rumour that Ikea is coming to London is so widespread and long-standing that it amounts to an urban legend. Within hours of reading the article I was overhearing staff-room conversations in which less experienced Londoners expressed their surprise and disappointment. They had heard London was getting an Ikea. We all have. It's not.

I can imagine, if I try, how amazing it would be to have an Ikea location closer than the current 90 minutes' drive (barring traffic). I could pop by on my lunch hour and pick up some frog-shaped bowls and 99-cent dishcloths. Swedish meatballs would be mine for the asking (complete with lingonberry sauce). On the weekend my children could play in the ball pit while I scoured the showrooms for decorating tips.

Such Ikea nirvana will never be mine. But I'm not wholly disappointed. If Ikea were closer it wouldn't be quite the same. There would be no more church buses heading up to the Toronto area for an Ikea-themed getaway. There would be no more need for people to go in together on a van and make a day of it. Would we really value Ikea in the same way if it were just around the corner? Would I exclaim, "Hey, that's a Leksvik five-drawer dresser!" with quite so much enthusiasm when I visited friends' homes if the language of Ikea simply entered into the local dialect?

On a local radio station there is a morning-show call-in game called "Ikea furniture? Or Lord of the Rings character?" Callers have to guess whether "Grima," "Faramir" and "Krokshult" are orcs, elves, or end tables. The names are, clearly, part of the Ikea fun. I still know the names of most of my Ikea furniture: I have Detolf display cases, a Timmerman end table, and a pair of crummy Ivar bookshelves that I've always planned to replace, but no other bookshelf on the market holds quite so many books as those old Ivars.

If Ikea opened up a location five minutes away from my workplace, I would go. Indeed, I would celebrate, just as I have celebrated the sudden influx of Bath and Body Works products into Canadian stores. But I would also mourn the end of an era. The fun of shopping has always had something to do with the lure of scarcity: there's nothing better than the sensation of stumbling upon a rare item or stepping into the warm Swedish glow of a store you get to visit only once a year. If Ikea came to my neighbourhood, I'd have more access to some-assembly-required furniture, but less access to that particular shiver of delight, and my shopping holy grail would have to move across the border into Michigan, where I'll soon need a passport to get to the nearest location of Target.

25 comments:

Mad said...

The closest Ikea to me is in Ottawa, I think. You'd be surprised just how much consumer zeal simply falls off your radar when you live in the Maritimes. Nothing makes me grouchy in quite the same way as when the HGTV designers or Canadian magazines will say that products are available "across Canada" meaning, of course, they are available from Vancouver to Montreal, provided you skip Sask altogether.

May your creative energies thrive in the absence of your Ikea.

Veronica Mitchell said...

When my husband was a mere youth, Coors beer was not available in his home state. He and his buddies would drive across state lines to stock up on the much-desired Coors.

After years of this, Coors finally got whatever state licenses they needed to sell in Az's home state. They could finally buy it at the corner store.

And that's when they all realized that Coors sucked.

gretchen from lifenut said...

True that, Veronica Mitchell...I used to live five minutes from the main Coors brewery in Golden. Yuck. I did like the smell of roasting hops in the air, though.

An Ikea is opening in Denver. When the announcement was made it was the top news story on local TV and the headline in both major newspapers. The closest Ikea right now is in Salt Lake, 400 miles away.

painted maypole said...

i miss ikea. there are within any reasonable distance. I was spoiled in California.

Nicole said...

You know, it's funny, there is an Ikea about thirty minutes away and we never go there. Maybe it's because every time we get something it takes us days to figure out those horrible instructions and put things together - and my husband is handy!

When I was a kid we used to "cross the line" as they say and I thought Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies were so awesome as we couldn't get them in Canada. My husband felt the same way about IHOP and A&W Root Beer - in a can! - so maybe it's the lure of the unavailable. Not unlike that unattainable sexy man, who, once he is attainable, loses his allure. I mean, not that that has ever happened to me....

kate said...

The greater Madrid area has 4 or 5 Ikeas-- I've lost count. Yes, more than a store, it's an experience. It's always a big deal when the catalogues are delivered, too.

Becky said...

I was all set to post about how the closest IKEA to me is SO FAR AWAY, and the only times I get to go to one are when I fly back to Ontario (which makes bringing back furniture difficult, to say the least), when I saw gretchen's comment that they're building a DENVER IKEA!!!!!

I think this still qualifies for far-enough-away that it remains exciting to go, because for me it'll be about a 30-45 minute drive...

!!! Still very excited. Where was I when THAT announcement was made!?

ewe are here said...

We were just at our closest Ikea this Saturday... it's an hour's drive away and I do wish it was closer.

Hannah said...

There used to be an IKEA in Halifax (well, Dartmouth, technically) and I still remember how much fun it was wandering through there, eating meatballs and trying to pronounce all the crazy names.

Then it closed down due to lack of sales.

The rumour that it will someday come back persists here, too. Last year a copycat store called Jysk opened - it's not the same. First of all, everything is from Norway, not Sweden. And there are no meatballs.

Beck said...

I live.... 6 hours from my nearest Ikea. I get the catalogs, but I don't really want much from it, aside from the occasional light fixtures - and the things I want, they won't ship. So it all works out, i guess.
Rumour has had it that we are supposedly getting one nearish for a decade or so. I suspect not.

Mouse said...

We made great use of IKEA when we lived closer, especially before we had full-time care for Scooter. He and I would head there when we needed a break. A couple bucks on breakfast and another hour wandering around and playing in the scattered kids' areas was the antidote to going stir crazy. I miss that something fierce.

Trillian and I took a trip at the end of the year that took us near an IKEA, so we worked that in to our trip with great relish. But 8 hours is way too far away to sate us often enough.

Lady M said...

For an amusing moment, listen to Jonathan Coulton's song "IKEA" (for free) in the "Smoking Monkey section, towards the bottom of the page here:

http://www.jonathancoulton.com/store/downloads/

bren j. said...

Our closest Ikea at the moment is about 8 hours away so I you won't blame me if I say I'm not the least bit sorry for your 90-minute drive.

Target is one of the places I'll miss most if we ever move back to Canada, but even that's three hours away these days....

Loukia said...

Whoa... we have Bath and Body Works in Ontario? Where? ;) That's some exciting news!

DaniGirl said...

Well, Bea, now you have another reason for an Ottawa road trip: they just announced that they'll be tearing down our puny one to build the Largest Ikea in Canada -- also One of The Largest In North America. Exciting, no?

As you've likely read, Ikea is the bad boy in my life. I can't help but love them; I get sucked in on a regular basis; and yet, I am burned over and over by questionable quality and non-standard sizes. I love them and I hate them, but I could not live without my Ikea...

kgirl said...

And here I am, complaining that since I've gone back to work, I can only go to Ikea on the weekend. Y'know, with the riff-raffed masses.

It was a once a week(day) staple outing for me and the girls for a year.

Patois said...

I first discovered the lure of Ikea when visiting relatives in Calgary so, so, so, so many years ago. I then happened upon one in Southern California about 15 years ago. I was thrilled! I was enthralled! The one that has been opened at least six years and is but 30 miles from me? Never been.

Janet said...

The Ikea rumour circulates here every few years. The last time our local paper cleared it all up: Ikea has a policy of not putting stores within a 100 km radius of one another.

We shall never have an Ikea.

Becky said...

"Ikea has a policy of not putting stores within a 100 km radius of one another."

Except in Toronto. (???)

the dragonfly said...

Eek! I STILL haven't been to Ikea. But that is supposed to change in the next week or so...

*crosses fingers*

Tina C. said...

i've had one 15 minutes from my house for about 20 years, but i don't go very often. is that bad of me? do i not appreciate it enough?

kittenpie said...

Let me tell you - even with an Ikea at your easy disposal, they are so busy, we still only go a couple of times a year, because it's like mounting an expedition!

But Ivar - we have so much Ivar, all over the house. It's so flexible, so easily adapted to whatever new situation you want to use it in, it really can't be beat. And if you are thinking it's ugly, it's either not full enough, or you can paint or stain it. Really, it's the best shelving going, if you ask me.

Terri said...

Can I just say I've missed reading your blog? I've been away for a while as life got more and more busy, but today I decided to catch up on some Bub and Pie reading. I was reminded once again why I enjoy your blog.

I think you're right about appreciating something more when we don't have ready access to it. I remember when our town didn't have a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Whenever we would travel it would be a treat for us to eat at one. Now we have one in town and the specialness of eating there only when we traveled is significantly diminished because we can eat there any old time.

Reluctant Housewife said...

I recently moved from NB to a community in Ontario that has an Ikea. It's still good. My kids do sometimes play in the ballroom on weekends while I shop. When I need basket to hold all my various stuff I go directly to the source. The shine has not gone. :)

John Ross said...

Ikea - yea!(or is it Yikes!?) Sadly, we do have an Ikea in Portland, Oregon. Sadly, because it's been here almost two years and I've NEVER BEEN THERE - it's a funding thing. But, hey, we have a new Major Grand High Whoa(Obama)so, hopefully things will improve(and that's NOT being much Facetious)

Just found your blog through Frog & Toad are Still Friends - Why is it, I wonder, that when I find a blogger who's writing I really enjoy(and who usually doesn't share my tendency for marathon run-on sentences) they fairly often turn out to be: A. Female B.college professors and/or C. um, I forgot....?

Really enjoy what I've read of your posts. Thanks much for doing them.