Ikea has opened its new Columbus store, but the Swedish furniture retailer is so enthusiastic about Ohio that it is turning its attention to Cleveland.
"We thought we'd be in Cleveland many years ago," said Lars Petersson, president of Ikea's U.S. operations. "We hoped to be in Cleveland first. We've been looking for a long, long time in both Cleveland and Columbus. But of course, we will be in Cleveland eventually."
Petersson, who is in Columbus for the grand opening of the Ikea store at the Polaris Centers of Commerce, did not mention a date or exact location for the Cleveland store.
But the company's expansion in the United States, particularly the Midwest, has been helped by the similarities between Swedish culture and those of the Midwest, particularly the collaborative culture in Columbus.
"Cooperation and consensus is the Swedish way," said Kenneth Johansson, president of Nordic Light, one of Ikea's suppliers. "It takes time to make a decision, but once we go, we go."
"To put the (Ikea building) blue box up is not a problem," Petersson said. Finding the right culture on the other hand, "it's not always easy. But here (in Columbus), we've found a fantastic collaborative atmosphere.
"It's important for us to forge relations between Ikea and the local community, because when we open a store, we intend to be in a place forever," he said. "That's why we buy the land, we don't lease. We build the building with local workers. We haven't had any incentives. We really want to be here permanently."
The entry of Ikea into the Columbus market "is like raising the Swedish flag," said Malou Monago, designated Swedish Consul for Ohio. "Whenever they come into a market, it raises awareness. It brings pride to Swedish people who are living there, it kind of validates us."
To emphasize the importance of relations between the Swedish and Columbus communities, shortly before the doors are flung open on Wednesday, all Ikea employees will be appointed Swedish ambassadors, said Goran Lithel, deputy chief of mission from the Swedish Embassy.
"This is our fourth opening with Ikea," Lithel said. "We're kind of the Ikea team."