As We See It

‘Little Sweden’ in Las Vegas? Furniture giant Ikea breaks ground in the Valley

Shovels of dirt are tossed as IKEA holds a groundbreaking ceremony for its first store in Southern Nevada complete with dignitaries and invited guests from Las Vegas and beyond on Thursday, April, 9, 2015.
Photo: L.E. Baskow

“We’re getting ready to get our Swedish on!” County Commissioner Susan Brager exclaimed to the crowd in a white tent off the 215. Swedish flags waved modestly, and local Swedes, dressed in yellow and blue, applauded with dignitaries and other guests. A table of Swedish snacks lined the back wall, while a life-size Dala Horse representing Swedish folk art stood at the entrance. Even Gov. Brian Sandoval sported the colors of the Swedish flag on his tie.

Not all groundbreakings generate the nationalist pride of a Norse country, but this is Ikea, so the enthusiasm of the press event boiled down to all things Swedish—including the touted “Swedish values,” which will extend full benefits to part-time Ikea employees, something Sandoval described as “extraordinary” and representative of “a culture we really want in our state.”

Ikea Groundbreaking in Southern Nevada

It will be another year before the store opens, employing 300 people and bringing tourists and locals to Durango and the 215 for Scandinavian furniture and food, but it has already been suggested that the area could turn into “Little Sweden” as Ikeas have in other cities. The Dala Horse did, after all, belong to a Swedish group in town before falling into the hands of the Sons of Norway’s Vegas Viking Lodge. Lena Walther, honorary consul of Sweden, was at the groundbreaking, sharing stories of how her grandfather knew the father of Ingvar Kamprad, the entrepreneur who founded Ikea in 1943.

“I’ve been here for 18 years,” Walther said. “People have been nagging us about Ikea not being here.” Its arrival, she added, means “tremendous promotion for Sweden, Swedish design and Swedish food.” Like Prinsess cakes, the cream-filled, green-marzipan goodies favored by local Harriet Olofsson, originally from Jämtland, Sweden. It’s the thing she’s most excited to buy.

Having first visited Ikea decades ago in Sweden and seen it grow, Walther is familiar with fan fervor—customers crossing state lines and locals demanding home stores—and was likely unfazed when County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said, “All I’m hearing is, ‘Ikea is coming!’”

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