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San Francisco Ikea opening: Customers form huge line that started at 5 a.m

People wait in line at the grand opening of the Ikea on Market Street in San Francisco on Wednesday. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

The day is finally here: The new San Francisco Ikea opened its doors to the public at 11 a.m. Wednesday morning to much fanfare from city officials and Downtown stakeholders.

Mayor London Breed told a media scrum inside the store that Aug. 23 is now Ikea Day in San Francisco.

A huge line of customers hoping to be some of the first inside the new location of the furniture store chain famed for its meatballs queued for hours before the store opened.

Mid-Market resident Daniel Cherry arrived first and got in line for the new Ikea at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Mayor London Breed does the ribbon cutting at the grand opening of the Ikea on Market Street, in San Francisco on Wednesday, August 23, 2023. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

Cherry is shopping for a dresser and a bed for his new apartment and said other customers began arriving in the line at around 7 a.m.

"I love Ikea stores," Cherry said. "I just want them to stay. That's my main thing."

Three supervisors are present at the opening: neighborhood representative Matt Dorsey, as well as Joel Engardio and Rafael Mandelman. The three supes and the mayor came straight from a protest against a homeless encampment sweeps injunction outside a San Francisco courthouse.

The new Ikea store anchors a 250,000-square-foot complex at 945 Market St., which was previously called the Livat mall. The “meeting place,” operated by Ikea parent company Ingka Centres, will include an upstairs food hall slated to open in “early 2024,” according to an Ingka representative.

A huge line of customers waits outside the new San Francisco Ikea on Market Street ahead of its grand opening on Wednesday. | Liz Lindqwister/The Standard

Ikea bought the Mid-Market space roughly three years ago. San Franciscans first expected the store to open in fall 2021, but construction only started in 2022. Ikea has delayed its opening several times since then, and internal communications between Ikea developers and city officials showed the store faced building permitting hiccups, supply-chain delays and concerns about local security.

READ MORE: San Francisco Ikea Raises False Robbery Alarm as Staff Eagerly Tests Systems

“We have our own risk team; it’s very standard in every Ikea store,” said market manager Arda Akalin. “But we also have a third-party external security company. We will have the security guards here, in certain places like the checkouts, restrooms and entrance.”

While the city is hopeful the new Ikea will shore up foot traffic in Downtown San Francisco, some are skeptical that one store can buoy the surrounding neighborhood. 

Making a ‘Mini-Ikea’

The new Ikea boasts furniture offerings and a floor design that store managers hope will meet San Francisco where it’s at. The entrance leads into a grab-and-go food market exclusive to the San Francisco location, and dozens of plastic and living plants line storage racks on the first floor.

“We focused on affordability and sustainability, mainly, and small-space living, which is specific to San Francisco,” Akalin said. “You walk into the ground floor, and we only have decorations and SF-specific, unique articles over there,” including a storage crate-turned-tiny home painted Golden Gate Bridge orange.

The store has a heavy stock of plants, and Ikea SF's two eating options—the first-floor Swedish Bite and second-floor Swedish Deli—will feature "sustainable, plant-based options."

READ MORE: San Francisco’s New Ikea Is a Plant-Lover’s Paradise

Tony Aristil holds a plant in the checkout line at the grand opening of the Ikea on Market Street on Wednesday, August 23, 2023. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

Ikea has opened a handful of city-oriented stores in the U.S. and Europe, though not all have succeeded. A smaller Ikea adaptation in Queens, New York, closed in 2022, less than two years after opening. The company cited the “changing needs” of its customers as the reason for the closure.

“The major difference between this one and the prior locations we have in the U.S. [is] this building; we started from scratch,” Akalin said. “Starting from scratch actually allowed us to create a mini-Ikea. We will not have the challenges that we had in the other units.”

A traditional Ikea store has a floor space of roughly 300,000 square feet, roughly four times the size of the newly opened San Francisco Ikea.