IKEA opened its New Haven, Connecticut, store on July 28, 2004 in an extraordinarily convenient location just off I-95 at exit 46. The enormous, 311,000-square-foot store continues to be a big draw for visitors to the New Haven area.
IKEA's appeal is multifaceted. Yes, you can buy affordable, stylish and durable home furnishings there. You can also shop for an amazing array of unusual gifts for everyone you know, starting with the tiniest tots.
If you visit with children, they'll find the store a veritable playground, whether they spend time in Smaland while you shop (it's free for those 37-54 inches tall) or join you on a trek through IKEA's colorful, touchable showroom. Particularly if you live in tight quarters, such as an apartment, dorm room or starter home, IKEA provides creative inspiration at every turn for making the most of your space. You can even visit IKEA for nothing more than the affordable breakfast and complimentary hot tea or coffee (for IKEA Family Members) available every morning in the restaurant.
IKEA operates more than 390 stores in 48 countries (as of 2016), but this was the Swedish company's first foray into the New England market, and the store has been immensely successful with an audience of frugal Yankees. Store manager Gail Franc said, "New England has surprised us and really given us a great reception here.
It feels like everyone in Connecticut has been here...." IKEA has since opened one additional New England store outside Boston in Stoughton, Massachusetts.
If it's been years since you visited an IKEA store, you'll find that the Swedish furniture maker has upgraded its quality and expanded its array of products while maintaining its commitment to making furniture affordable.
IKEA offers a full line of furnishings for babies and kids, everything you need for your kitchen from cabinets to appliances, and a diverse selection of not only furnishings but fun, decorative and smart accent pieces.
IKEA tries to feature everything customers need to furnish and decorate their living space, with the exception of home electronics. All items are designed in Sweden, but they are manufactured all over the world. Basic design styles make for easy mixing and matching. Franc said that IKEA strives to "appeal to a broad variety of tastes."
Of course, you are not going to find a solid mahogany chest of drawers here. You're also not going to find price tags that start in the four-figures. IKEA's mission, Franc explained, is "to create a better everyday life for the many people." That starts with not spending a fortune on furniture so that you have plenty of money leftover to do other fun things.
Then again, what's more exciting than loading up the family vehicle and making a trip to this unique shopping destination?
If you've never been inside an IKEA store, you may be a bit befuddled when you first arrive in New Haven. "This is such a different way to shop," said store manager Gail Franc.
She's right, so rather than wasting precious shopping moments trying to figure it all out on your own, read this before you go.
When you arrive at the IKEA store in New Haven, the first thing you'll want to do is pick up a complimentary pencil and measuring tape and one of the small carts equipped with handles for attaching one of the large plastic shopping bags the store provides.
Larger carts with baskets are not allowed upstairs.
Take the stairs or elevator to the second-floor showroom. Here, arrows and signs direct you through the cavernous displays so that you won't miss a thing. The showroom features several model homes that will give you bountiful ideas on how you might use IKEA furnishings in your own living space, whatever its dimensions. You'll also see plenty of model rooms and areas devoted specifically to living rooms, storage, kitchens and dining, work spaces, bedrooms, bathrooms and children's rooms.
Everything you see is for sale, whether it is a framed print in a bedroom, a dollhouse in a kid's room, or a full set of kitchen cabinets.
What creates a bit of a conundrum for first-time visitors is the oft-repeated question: where do I go to buy all of this stuff?
Some smaller items are available on the showroom floor for you to toss into your shopping bag.
Anything with a red tag, however, you must pick up yourself in either the Marketplace or the Self Serve Furniture Warehouse, both located on the first floor. The tag provides all of the information you need on where to find each item, so take careful notes. Large, bulky items may have yellow tags, which mean that you will need to pick the item up at Furniture Pick-Up or pay for delivery.
This self-serve approach has many advantages. Not only can you shop at your own pace, you won't be accosted the moment you enter IKEA as customers frequently are at other furniture stores. "There's no pressure from anyone; no one is on commission," Franc explained.
However, Community Relations Coordinator Megan Malicki emphasized, "Self service doesn't mean no service." IKEA employees, all dressed in easy-to-spot yellow IKEA shirts, are ready to help you with any questions you may have.
In the kitchen design area of the showroom, employees are available to assist those who want to use the store's computers to design their new or remodeled kitchen. Those who want to get a jump start can begin their kitchen planning online with the Kitchen Planning Tool at IKEA.com.
In many areas where shoppers may need time to browse, such as the kitchen area, you'll find playhouses strategically positioned to keep younger shoppers enthralled.
Before you leave the upstairs showroom, you may want to take a break in the IKEA Restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Enjoy a taste of Sweden: Swedish meatballs and lingonberry juice are always among the restaurant's offerings.
Once you are ready to head downstairs, there is much more to see and to buy in the Marketplace.
This is where you'll find many of the decorative items you saw in the showroom, along with cookware and dishes, textiles and rugs, bathroom accessories, home organizers, lighting, wall decor and more.
Once you find your way through the Marketplace, which is no small feat, you arrive, finally, at the Self Serve Furniture area, where you can complete your shopping trip by picking up the larger items that caught your eye in the showroom. Red-tag items you noted can be found in their designated aisles and bins.
About 80 percent of merchandise can be picked up by customers without any assistance if they choose. Most items are packaged flat so that they are easy to fit into your vehicle for transport home. Some assembly is often required. Delivery is available everywhere in New England, however, and you can also be referred to a contract assembly company if you will need help once you get your furniture home.
If there are yellow-tag items on your list and you can fit them in your own vehicle, they can be retrieved at the Furniture Pick-Up area.
Even if your intention is only to browse, it's hard not to leave with something, particularly when you discover the Swedish Foodmarket on your way out. The good news is, unless you have no willpower at all, a visit to IKEA is not going to break you.
One more thing to keep in mind: IKEA does not provide bags for carrying out your purchases. You may want to bring your own shopping bags along.
Location: IKEA is located at 450 Sargent Drive in New Haven, Connecticut (map).
Directions from the Hartford area: Follow I-91 South to I-95 South. Take the first exit, exit 46, for Sargent Drive. IKEA is visible from the highway. Turn right onto Sargent Drive, and IKEA will be on you left.
Parking Tip: There is plenty of free parking. If you have children, head for the Family Parking Area located on the Sargent Drive side of the store, which is very close to the entrance and may just have a spot, since it's a bit of a secret.
For more information: Visit IKEA's US Web site or call the New Haven store at: 203-865-4532.
Need a nearby place to stay? Compare New Haven hotels.
For other things to do while you're in New Haven: Visit the New Haven Convention & Visitors Bureau Web site or call toll free, 800-332-STAY.