Grand opening of the nation's largest IKEA draws more than 1,000 shoppers

Armed with inflatable vinyl thunder sticks, dozens of yellow-shirted IKEA employees greeted more than 1,000 shoppers Wednesday morning to the Swedish retailer's new store in Burbank, the largest IKEA in the United States.

The thudding sound from the noisemakers echoed for more than 15 minutes as a seemingly never-ending stream of people entered the 456,000-square-foot facility located at 805 S. San Fernando Blvd.

IKEA allowed eager shoppers to line up at the store's entrance beginning at 6 a.m. for a shot at winning free furniture. However, Burbank police were called at around 5:30 a.m. after several hundred people decided to wait in line earlier and create their own waiting list, IKEA spokesman Joseph Roth said.

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Burbank police Sgt. Derek Green said officers arrived at the store "to maintain order," adding that there were no incidents during their time there.

Initially, the retailer was going to give the first 26 people in line a sofa and the next 100 customers an armchair. However, because of the large number of people waiting in line, store officials decided to give the furniture away via a lottery, Roth said.

"We weren't sure what to expect," he said about the size of the crowd.

Despite the small hiccup early in the morning, shoppers patiently waited in line — some for hours — to get a chance to be one of the first people in the new store.

Silver Lake resident Martha Hernandez, 45, arrived at IKEA at around 7:30 a.m. and found herself on the outer fringes of the parking lot with several hundred people in front of her.

"IKEA is always a good place to shop," she said. "I like the atmosphere. They always have good sales. I always buy furniture here, and it's close to home."

Hernandez said that she frequented the original Burbank IKEA, located a little more than a mile away on North San Fernando Boulevard in the Burbank Town Center. It opened in 1990 and was IKEA's first store in California.

Though the former store was smaller — 242,000 square feet — Hernandez that she liked seeing the showrooms change there every time she visited.

"There was always something new," she said.

Further up the line was Sandy Seufert, 53, of Hollywood, who was dressed in a Swedish folk costume and playing Swedish folk songs on her fiddle.

Seufert, who has Swedish heritage on her mother's side of the family, said she has always "loved" IKEA since the store opened 26 years ago and that the retailer has allowed her to keep in touch with her roots.

"I went to the old store at least once a month, and if I couldn't go, I would look at the catalog," she said. "I know half the product line, and I'm just a huge fan."

Before the store's opening, Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes and IKEA store manager Jeff O'Shaughnessy sawed a log in half, which, in Swedish tradition, is meant to bring good luck.

At around 9 a.m., the sliding double doors opened, and hundreds of people rode an escalator to the store's 77,500-square-foot showroom.

Granada Hills resident Patricia Dungo, 33, was at the store with her husband and children looking for new storage containers for their newborn.

"It's more spacious, bigger and a lot more walking for us," she said.

Though in addition to a bigger showroom there is a 600-seat restaurant at the new store, Dungo said she is most excited about the underground parking and additional loading zones.

"It's much better than the old one, where you had to walk across a street," she said.

Near the sofas was Sherman Oaks resident Mohammad Khalil Beik, who was with his wife perusing the various sections of the showroom.

Khalil Beik, 41, said they had bought new furniture at the old IKEA before it closed on Saturday, but they wanted to stop by the new store to see what changes were made.

"The old store was good, but a little tight," he said. "But here, I feel like I can breathe better and be more relaxed. You have space to go around, and you're not bothering other people."

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Anthony Clark Carpio, anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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