- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Hundreds of shoppers clutching yellow bags milled through the vast showrooms of the new Ikea store in College Park during its opening yesterday.

Most patrons at the 371,000-square-foot Swedish home-furnishing store just off the outer loop of the Capital Beltway waited at least 15 minutes in congested traffic along U.S. Route 1 to park their cars and enter the massive first-floor showroom.

At the 9 a.m. opening, some 2,000 shoppers were lined up around the store to have a look at the inexpensive furniture and kitchenware, said store Manager Paget Ingham.

The first 100 customers were camped out in line at the store’s front entrance by 10 p.m. Tuesday to get the first look at the store, Mrs. Ingham said. “It was pouring outside earlier in the morning, but they had big smiles on their faces when they entered the store.”

Mrs. Ingham added that she expected the store to remain busy for the rest of the week.

In the upper showroom, Laurel resident Aaron Armstrong said he took a vacation day to make it inside Ikea by 11 a.m. yesterday morning.

“I had to wait in traffic for 30 minutes, but it was worth it,” he said while strolling around $60 chairs. “I imagine parking and traffic won’t be as much of an issue once the store starts operating on more normal days.”

Mrs. Ingham said the store was handling the packed parking lots by hiring about 20 security guards and police officers to direct traffic.

“We’re making sure the ride coming in and leaving is smooth so we can get the highest customer traffic through our aisles,” she said.

Frankie Hoffman was in the line by 10 a.m., hoping to get a glimpse at former “I Dream of Jeannie” television star Barbara Eden, who headlined the store’s opening event.

“This store is great because you can’t tell that all these people are inside,” Ms. Hoffman said after looking around for decorating ideas for her new Columbia, Md., home.

Rita Crandall drove more than an hour with her daughter, Beth, from their home in Frederick County to look through the home-organization accessories.

“I need things that conserve space for my New York apartment, and so far I’ve found so many wonderful extras,” like bamboo-style blinds, said Miss Crandall, a sophomore at New York University.

Mrs. Crandall said the pair would return to the College Park location before the fall to finish up their college spending spree.

“Right now we’re taking it all in and just touching everything and checking prices. Then, we might brave those checkout lines,” she said jokingly.

Ikea’s 30 checkout lanes by midafternoon each held at least 20 customers buying lamps, tables, sofa cushions, cutlery and cups.

Before the College Park store opened, the closest Ikeas were in White Marsh, Md., north of Baltimore, and Woodbridge, Va.

Other patrons like Laurel resident Jenny Ostrow were excited about the business opportunities for Prince George’s County that the store may bring.

“This store will do the area a lot of good by bringing more customers to the area,” said Mrs. Ostrow, who was searching for a dressing table for her daughter, Leanne.

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