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Updated: Why I can’t wait for IKEA in Portland

Posted by on December 15th, 2006 at 12:09 pm

[*Update: Please read this comment for my mea culpa on this post.]

[Photo of IKEA Netherlands, courtesy
Evan Manvel/BTA]

As I first reported over a year ago, retail giant IKEA will soon have a Portland location.

I’m already looking forward to their tasty Swedish meatballs, lingonberry jam, and 75 bike racks they plan to install, but now comes word that their UK division has given out 9,000 folding bikes to their employees.

IKEA’s UK manager (as reported by Carlton Reid of Bike Biz UK) says,

“The bike is a fun present but there is a serious message. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to protect the environment.”

This bikey Christmas gift is yet another sign that IKEA has their priorities straight and a company with this mentality will be a welcome addition to Portland.

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Jessica Roberts
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Jessica Roberts

In Europe people usually don’t assume that they will be hauling their own furniture home (which is part of why they have those tiny little cars instead of giant trucks and vans). Instead you go to the store to shop (often on bike) and have them deliver. How civilized! I hope Ikea will make it easy to do the same here.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Home delivery will definitely be an option. Whether it’ll be affordable or timely, who knows. Anybody heard a tentative opening date?

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

I noticed in Boston that IKEA has an arrangement with Zipcar to further encourage carsharing; the idea being that maybe using a Zipcar could be cheaper than delivery costs, but you still wouldn’t need to own a car in order to shop at IKEA. I wonder if they’ve approached Flexcar (or vice-versa) on a similar arrangement here in Portland?

Jonathan Maus
Guest

seems like having a bunch of FlexCars at IKEA would be a natural.

And don’t discount the ability of bikes to move furniture. We’ve all seen how amazing the bike movers are in this town…and by the time IKEA is done, we’ll have awesome Dutch cargo bikes and bakfiets at our disposal!

IP
Guest
IP

Funny how a discount furniture store is perceived as environmentally friendly; all it takes in a semi full of folding bikes from China.

I look forward to Ikea in Portland so that I can get some sweet cheap furniture.

J-On-Bike
Guest
J-On-Bike

IP – I thought the same thing too.

Wasn’t one recent IKEA ad-campaign about the “disposability” of furniture and home accessories?

Not to say that I don’t have IKEA furniture – I do – but that “disposable” mentality rubs me the wrong way.

Jonathan Maus
Guest

the article I linked to said the bikes were sourced from Poland…not China. Just FYI.

beth
Guest

In July 2001, the admissions director of my graduate school in Philadelphia invited me to go with her to the nearest Ikea, way out in a far-flung suburb; she’d get a few things she needed and help me find a cheap computer desk for my Center City apartment. After our outing, she’d even drop me off with the desk back at my apartment (since she knew I didn’t have a car).

I was in a professional program where it was rapidly becoming clear to me that appearances mattered. I was the only student in my program who wasn’t living in the suburbs (because I couldn’t afford it), and who was living car-free (the latter made me an object of curiosity to my classmates and instructors). I couldn’t admit to the admissions director that I’d already outfitted most of my roach-ridden digs with free stuff that people put out on the sidewalks every night in Center City. So we went. It was a kind offer, after all.

We had to be there early, she said. I didn’t understand why until we got there at 8:30 and saw that the line to get in went halfway around the building. There was a Starbuck’s nearby so she bought us coffee and we waited in line with everyone else. I was staggered at the sight of so many people waiting to get into a STORE. To shop. When Ikea opened at 9am it looked like the throngs trying to rush the stage at a rock concert. The energy was friendly, but definitely urgent and purposeful.

I was so horrified by this shopping madness that I simply pretended I couldn’t find a small enough desk to fit in my tiny space. That night, I scored a used desk and chair five blocks from my place, and hauled it home by balancing it on top of a shopping cart.

Three months later, my advisor took me asied and told me it was time to “professionalize” my life; dress in suits, get a car, and move closer to the communities I was planning to serve. “This car-free life is certainly amusing us all,” she said, “but you have to start walking the walk here if you want to fit in.”

I finished out the fall semester and gave notice to my landlord. I shipped my books and bikes home and said my goodbyes. The night before I left Philly for good, I put all the free furniture I’d found back out on the sidewalk (it was gone the next day).

Do I need Ikea? Like a hole in the head.

IP
Guest
IP

Ikea hired an excellent PR firm, simple.

There are absolutely no difference between their business model than McDonald or Starbucks: Go in, Get something cheap, Get out, Go global.

You can get the same Big-Mac anywhere in the world, so as the Ikea chair.

Willie Biffit
Guest
Willie Biffit

Sorry you had to work for such a pretentious b*tch. It’s that kind of mentality that’s keeping McMansions and SUVs on the market and Starbuck’s in business.

That said, I like Ikea precisely because their stuff is simple, functional and easily assembled. It’s generally good-looking, clean design that works well. I can see how on a grad student’s salary it’s way out of reach. And yes, like everything else in Portland, it’s going to become an instant hipster status symbol, with many flocking to it because it’s popular. I still like it, hipsters be damned.

dayaram
Guest
dayaram

Another big box store, ho-hum!

Ian Hopper
Guest

When Ikea came to the Bay Area (Emeryville), my wife and I went to check it out: it’s grown since, but it’s still a awesome though entirely unpleasant experience to shop there. To get through the place you’d better have spent some time as a rat in a maze box: the place is designed to keep you inside for a long time. The thought of having to go there again gives me a bad rash. Frankly, I own some bookcases that are from Ikea, but I’m not proud of it, at all. The comments about Ikea hiring a good PR firm are right on track. Are the wood products that you get from Ikea FSC (or equivalent)certified? Not likely, but that would go a lot further towards being “green” than the bicycles ever could. If you portlanders don’t like the idea of Ikea, kick em out via political channels or if it’s too late for that; DON’T SHOP THERE!

Vladislav Davidzon
Guest

Jonathan,

I am not sure that we ought to be celebrating another big box store moving into town. We should be looking to build diversity, not more strip malls — Portland is unique, and we should fight tooth and nail to preserve and develop that uniqueness.

I suggest picking up a copy of Smallmart Revolution (www.smallmart.org) — How America’s small businesses are beating the global competition. It really outlines the facts pretty well.

Local First!

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Maybe more appropriate would be “Why I(you) can’t wait for Ikea to come to Portland(?)”
Because they have a smart PR campaign that assists liberalesk folks to feel good about buying their oh so hip furniture.
I don’t look forward to Ikea, for the same reasons why I shop at a local bike shops not REI, why I shop People Coop and not Whole foods, why I drink Stumptown and not Peets or Starbucks.

Jonathan Maus
Guest

OK, I screwed this one up.

I admit, the title and tone of this post is way off.

I am not in favor of big-box companies moving into Portland, and if you knew me personally, you would understand that I am a big advocate of supporting small, local businesses (that’s why I try and profile so many of them on this site).

The title of this post just popped into my head and I wrote the story without thinking it through…so I guess there are still some remnants of my Orange County, California past banging around my head (I know, scary).

I’ve learned alot about these issues since moving to Portland three years ago…but I’ve still got room to grow.

I guess I figured since they are already coming, it’s cool that they’re at least a forward-thinking company that uses tons of FSC certified wood and gives bikes to their employees.

But now, the title of the post makes me cringe whenever I read it.

While I don’t think IKEA is as bad as Wal-Mart or McDonald’s, I agree that if given the choice, I would rather they didn’t come to Portland.

Despite their attempts at being green, IKEA is still a juggernaut international corporation that promotes consumerism instead of “reduce and reuse.”

But I still think they make damn good Swedish meatballs and lingonberry jam ;-).

Thanks for all your feedback.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Beth: Great slice o’ life story. Made me sad, but also made me glad that there are people – like you – that can avoid being completely ensnared by the tentacles whose name I shall not speak.

Would that we were all so successful.

SKiDmark
Guest
SKiDmark

I dunno, I could use a couple of sturdy bookcases and a Modern looking couch for a decent price. I wish they would have it more centrally located, I think that would encourage alternative transportation more than any ad campaign, Public Transit, or Flex Car availability. Right now I think a lot of people are going to say “it’s so far away”, and hop in their car, rather than taking the MAX or biking there.

Graham
Guest

Wow…lots of judgments being made, both directly and through inference. I don’t think the issue is so clear cut as some here think. For those that are making the anti-Ikea environmentalist case, I wonder if you’ve considered the actual environmental impact of Ikea vs. the positive press of their environmentalist tactics. If the goal is to get more people to think environmentally, the press generated by Ikea may do more for the cause.

adam
Guest
adam

bike delivery service?

maybe some industrious bikey folks with trailers can offer to help ikea reduce its footprint(s).

I have mixed emotions and opinions about ikea. and, I prefer to not own furniture. if you need a couch, you can find some on the streets…

Scout
Guest

Wow. There sure is a whole lot of snobbery going on here. The rule of the market is simple here: if you do not like Ikea, then do not shop there.

I’m personally excited about the new Ikea, and I’m okay with my decision. I don’t make a lot of money, I like their wares, and I’d rather buy from Ikea than from Kmart or Target or even the Fred Meyer.

Though Ikea is a chain and a corporation and a “big box” company, they are a far cry from the likes of McDonalds and Wal-Mart. Lumping them into one giant all-purpose category doesn’t achieve anything and just makes for a bad argument.

Don’t get me wrong: I could be best classified as a bleeding heart feminist liberal. Yet, I know the value of picking my battles. If a giant corporation wants to sell you their product (and to do everything in their power to do so), how is that shocking? Big business is the way in this country, and rather than piss and moan about their intents not being good enough, why don’t more people applaud the attempt and encourage further change? Are people so screwed up they can no longer see the difference between companies which employ third world sweat shop labor (then deny benefits and anything over minimum wage to their employees) and the companies which actually try to make a difference?

176 million people go to Wal-Mart every single week, but there are currently less than 10 Ikea stores on the West Coast. McDonalds and Wal-Mart actually go out of their way to undersell the competition and force people out of business, pushing them into a position where they have no choice but to buy their shoddily made tube socks from the very company which pilfered their livelihood. It’s sad, it’s despicable, and it’s a pox upon American society. I do not shop at such places, I do everything in my power to keep them out of my neighborhood, and when people ask why I make this case, I try to give them a reasoned, well-thought and factually accurate picture of my opinion without crapping on theirs.

Don’t just hate something for the sake of hating it. Put your back into it, people. Find something truly appalling and do your best to stop it. If you hate a company for their human rights violations or environmental atrocities, then do something more about it than trying to make people feel bad for shopping there.

Make a convincing argument. No one has ever won me to their side by attempting to shame me.

beth
Guest

No judgements or snobbery here. And I’m certainly not “free of ensnarement”. I have desired — and yes, even bought — my share of things I didn’t really need, from questionable or downight socially/environmentally irresponsible sources; if one lives in America it’s tough not to at some time or another.
The experience at the Philly Ikea was ghastly in that it upset my stomach and gave me a headache; it was good in that it also gave me pause.

RWL11
Guest

…what is so BAD about a company like Ikea coming to town, opening a new store (which required construction workers to build and get paid while doing so), then hiring PDX employees (who will get paid to work there). Seems to me they are helping our economy, employing people. As long as they are operating legally, treating their employees and customer well, offering good products at a fair price, so what? That’s life in the USA. Don’t like their business model? Vote with your wallet, shop somewhere else.

Without the city FINALLY getting smart and changing the zoning for this land, Cascade Station is finally being built. More jobs created, adding to the local economy. Does anyone remember HOW the MAX RedLine got built? In exchange for the land, the developer BUILT the RedLine. Limited tax dollars were used for this important link to our mass transit system.

I think it was a good deal for all.

Cecil
Guest
Cecil

I am thrilled that IKEA is coming and make no apologies for it. I can pass on the meatballs (they are meat, after all) but I hate having to drive all the way to Seattle to purchase my housewares with cute Nordic names and modern design. I am looking forward to being able to ride my bike or the Max to sock up on my Glimmi tea candles and Floofi towels . . . .
it’s fine with me if the rest of y’all stay home – it will make it easier to navigate the maze 🙂

Hawthorne Rider
Guest
Hawthorne Rider

I recently visited the Seattle-area Ikea for the first time. I have mixed feelings about the big-box-ness of all for reasons discussed by other commenters.

I must say though that I was very impressed by their cafeteria. It was “fast” food & cheap (most meals were under $5), yet actually pretty healthy. I had an open faced sandwich on rye bread with a hard boiled egg, bay shrimp & lots of fresh lettuce (not even iceberg!). Most of the food options seemed equally nutritious. It was just refreshing compared to other stores’ eating areas that usually only offer hot dogs & bright orange fake cheese nachos, and showed that food offerings can definitely be better, yet still affordable.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Dear non-denominational, non-threatening deity NOOOOOOO!!! A profitable company not hawking domestically produced organic, free-range, vegan, fair trade, hemp covered, cruelty free, non-gender specific goods is setting up shop in our beloved Havana-on-the-Willamette? The gall of these bastards!

Didn’t this used to be a bike site? Did Jonathan sell the domain name to http://www.antiglobalistpolicehatingscofflawslackerfolkswithbikesthathateeverything.com? It’s so hard to keep pace with these online mergers.

adam
Guest
adam

awesome, brad…I wish we could afford that domain. it would rock.

now, back to biking…

Burr
Guest
Burr

Just an FYI, the Red Line Airport MAX stops within easy walking (or biking) distance from the soon-to-be Portland IKEA store.

t-rex
Guest
t-rex

I commend you Scout. It doesn’t take much homework to see the extra mile Ikea is going, when it comes to the environment, social responsibility and good labor practices. Some might say they are leading the way to a better future. How can we expect to make the positive changes we want without supporting those who go that extra mile? We have to start somewhere, and Ikea looks to me as a good example for other corporations to follow. AND the only way to get those other corps to change is to show them that it’s PROFITABLE! if they see no value, then they will have no incentive to change…

do your homework!
http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/about_ikea/splash.html

Chris
Guest

More good news about Ikea. They are giving a free folding bike to all of their UK employees and a 15% public transportation discount. So it does seem like they are quite supportive of biking.

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/12/ikea_gives_free.php

Jonathan Maus
Guest

I too commend IKEA for being a great corporate citizen in many ways. I love that they serve healthy food, support biking, and use FSC certified wood.

I also realize they will have a positive impact on Portland’s economy.

But none of those points matter as much to me as the nature of their business and the culture of consumption I feel it encourages.

I think this is a complex issue that isn’t just about being for-or-against big box stores or whether or not IKEA is a “green” company.

For me the core question to ask ourselves is, “Are huge, multinational corporations that sell new, material goods the best thing for our planet?”

Or, should we start supporting more local businesses and doing a better job to reduce the amount of stuff we buy and/or re-use what already exists?

This question is why I’m not sure how to feel about IKEA.

(By the way, I’m typing this from an office decked out with IKEA stuff!).

Jonathan Maus
Guest

ummm, Chris…did you even read this post?

Chris
Guest

Okay, I totally missed that. I’m really exhausted and for some reason I originally thought this old post was about bike parking or something at the new Ikea and when I saw the Treehugger article I just remembered this post. Definitely time to go take a nap.

enginerd
Guest
enginerd

Jonathan…thanks for #31. What gripes me is not Ikea per se, but Cascade Station (CS) itself. I worked for one of the consultants involved in planning CS way back when, and we were really excited about the prospect of what we’d gotten approved.

The Port owned most of the Cascade Station land, acquired through a grant from the FAA. The grant was geared toward using the land for “airport-supportive economic development.” So, the FAA had a voice in the Cascade Station master planning, the transfer of development rights, et cetera.

Our first cut was sort of a “Big Box Village served by MAX” concept that was shot down very quickly as not airport-supportive, too car-oriented, etc. So we developed the plan that was ultimately adopted. A “Smart Development” model of mixed small-midsize retail (think REI), office, and entertainment that met FAA’s concerns, ODOT’s concern about traffic, etc, that also was a high-transit/low-car/pro-bike environment.

So last year, the City caved to developer pressure, lead by Ikea, so now we get not only Ikea, which, by itself MAY be okay, but also Costco, Costco Home, and probably more car-oriented, planet-unfriendly, etc, businesses that have absolutely nothing to do with the initial public investment (via FAA) in airport-supportive development.

And a new I-205/Airport Way interchange to support all those cars.

Cool.

el timito
Guest
el timito

Some car-free folks have made their peace with Ikea:

http://crazybikerchick.blogspot.com/2004/09/ikea-part-ii-aka-fun-with-cargo.html

I’m just sad we’re losing a potential MMR location.

Robert
Guest
Robert

Well Ikea already has a delivery company that is set up in portland. They are called Sunshine Delivery and they have been doing delivery for the ikea store near seattle. I worked for Sunshine when they first opened and met the owner who made a branch here specifically for ikea. so ride your bike to ikea and let sunshine deliver it for you(for a fee)

Paul Cone
Guest
Paul Cone

I am all about reduce, reuse, recycle, but there are only so many quality used desks to be found out there so at some point new products have to enter the stream. I would much rather spend my money buying good quality products at Ikea than someplace like Home Depot, and not have to drive to Renton to do so (yes I was visiting family up there, too, but still).

Also Cascade Station will be featuring Ross, Linens-N-Things, Staples, Marshalls, Golfsmith, Sports Authority and Best Buy. So while I am happy to see Ikea coming, I am not happy to see the same old box stores coming along with them. Oh well. At least we’re improving on the transit part of it. Now if that Max line only went to Vancouver…