Pop quiz: What’s the English word for IKEA?
There isn’t one.
It’s an acronym for the name of the company’s founder Ingvar Kamprad, his farm and the town he grew up.
But after touring a 10 year-old IKEA store in Orange County Wednesday, it means three things to me – cheap, Cheap, CHEAP!
And that dear readers is what it may soon mean to Kansas City area shoppers sometime in the next year when the international home products company bestows its presence on Merriam, Kansas.
For all of IKEA’a presumed cache – and to be sure there’s been no shortage of local media hype – I was a bit underwhelmed. Big time underwhelmed actually.
Maybe because of the big buildup.
“It’s coming! It’s really coming!” panted the Pitch while releasing a generic-looking rendering of what Merriam’s IKEA is supposed to look like.
Talk about a limp-wristed scoop, all IKEA stores look like that.
The Star‘s Joyce Smith spoke almost reverently of IKEA’s “cult following” and gushed about its cafeteria-served, “famous Swedish meatballs.” As if almost to imply they might take their rightful place alongside Winstead’s hamburgers, Gates Bar-B-Q and Stroud’s chicken in KC’s food hall of fame.
Hold it right there.
Will IKEA be the latest entrant into KC’s pantheon of hippest things ever to hit town since – take a number – Starbucks, Crate & Barrel and H&M? Will upscale local shoppers in Overland Park, Leawood and Mission Hills flock there to purchase trendy home furnishings and wolf down meatballs?
I have my doubts.
After combing Orange County’s 10 year-old IKEA – across the street from the Los Angeles Times – I can report to you that this is no upscale operation. Unless that is, you already worship at the altar of Pier One.
Quite the opposite.
With the odd exception, most of the IKEA products I saw in my two hour tour were pretty cheap looking. OK, inexpensive. But not the sort of accoutrements one might find in the average middle to upper-middle class and beyond home.
Let me put it another way:
If you’re just out of school, furnishing your first apartment or starter home, doing up a dorm room on the cheap, recuperating from a wallet numbing divorce or severe financial setback, IKEA may be just the ticket.
Need a seven piece cookware set for $79.99? IKEA’s got it.
How about an entire child’s bedroom furnished to the hilt for under $439?
Want a three pack of shoe storage “Trones” (whatever that means) for $39.99 or kiddie bunk beds for $149? IKEA’s got ’em and the list is endless. Side tables for $9.99 each, wicker chairs at $29.99, huge wall mirrors for $79.99, giant throw pillows for $12.99 each and corner sofa beds for $799.
They’re all there and much, much more.
IKEA is so huge it makes the expression “football field size” seem diminutive.
However chances are you may not see that much more than you’ve already seen basically at Target, Pier One or any number of other stores bargain-priced stores.
That said, the size and scope of IKEA’s offerings is staggering…and size matters, right?
In the end, it all kind of blurs together as cheap-seeming, but if you’re on a budget, starting out in life (or starting over) and money’s tight, go for it.
All I can say is it didn’t knock my socks off, my expectations were higher.
Now let’s talk meatballs.
To complete my tour of IKEA I hopped into a giant cafeteria line and ordered the $7.99 Swedish meatball plate – 15 tiny meatballs smothered in a light brownish cream gravy, a scoop of mashed potatoes, tablespoon of cranberry sauce with a small iceberg lettuce salad and even smaller fountain drink.
Will I be racing back for more anytime soon? In a word, no.
I’d describe IKEA’s fare as upscale high school cafeteria.
And while that may seems a little harsh, I doubt the baby back rib and chicken nugget plates are going to give Oklahoma Joe’s or R.C.’s anything to worry about.
The senior citizen, food checkout dude (a former Kansas Citian) may have had a hard time distinguishing between Merriam, State Line and Holmes, but he was a master at pimping IKEA dining customers.
Take the portly couple ahead of me who ordered the Chocolate Overload Cake to go with their macaroni and chicken fingers plates.
“How’s your heart condition, sir?” he asked the husband guy. “You’d better be a little careful with this, it’s powerful stuff. Tell you what, I’ll keep an eye on you and if I see you lying on the floor I’ll send someone over.”
I too tried the $2.99 dessert – and was warned – and while I experienced no health issues, it was the best thing on my tray will likely give the meatballs a run for their money for the most-ordered distinction.
The bottom line:
Will Merriam’s IKEA become a Swedish Meatball Mecca? I seriously doubt it, once people have tried them. Will upscale designers flock to IKEA with their clients? I’d be a little surprised.
IKEA’s best bet may be for starter families looking to outfit cute kiddie rooms on the cheap and people looking for wildly inexpensive picture frames, mirrors, cookware, rugs, kitchen appliances and the like.
I was just expecting more…a lot more.