Ikea set to open only East Coast store, touting it as Canada's most sustainable

HALIFAX _ Ikea is set to officially open its only store in Atlantic Canada on Wednesday as thousands from across the region are expected to descend upon the popular Swedish furniture chain’s new Halifax-area location.

The store in the Dartmouth Crossing retail district _ the size of four football fields, including its parking lot _ features a bright, streamlined showroom with rooms that were furnished based on the needs of Maritimers.

Ikea Canada president Marsha Smith said the company visited more than 70 local residences to determine what people in the Halifax area needed in their homes, such as waste storage solutions.

“We have a lot of local architectural features such as fireplaces. The size of the windows are locally relevant. There are a lot of areas where you will see familiarity with what you see locally,” said Smith during an exclusive tour of the new store with The Canadian Press on Monday ahead of an evening media event.

“We take a lot of time to do home visits and studies in the local area so that when you walk into the store, you should really see yourself.”

Overlooking the store’s restaurant and seating area is a “living wall” _ a floor-to-ceiling surface filled with green and yellow plants meant to help purify the air. Ikea Halifax also has a children’s play area and a massive warehouse stacked high with brown boxes containing the company’s trademark unassembled furniture.

Social media has been abuzz since Ikea announced about two years ago it was opening a store in the region. It previously had a smaller location in the Halifax area, but it closed nearly three decades ago.

“We really have seen a huge enthusiasm from the community and from the coworkers,” said Smith while sitting on a cream-coloured couch in a model living room at the entrance of the store’s showroom.

Smith said the Halifax store is Ikea’s most sustainable in the country and also the first store to be LEED-certified.

“That’s something that’s incredibly important to us,” said Smith, adding there are charging stations for electric vehicles in the parking lot and also a free light bulb and battery take-back service.

“We have solar panels on the roof which help to generate electricity, which we then use in the building. We also have a solar wall on the side of the building and the way that works is that as air passes through, it actually heats the air and which reduces the heating we need to tap into.”

The store employs about 250 people.

The arrival of Ikea recently stirred up some local online controversy from people who took issue with the store being called Ikea Halifax. The building is in Dartmouth, which was once a separate city.

Smith says the Halifax name was chosen because the company wanted to reach as many people as possible, from the Halifax area and beyond. The company compared this approach to other stores such as Ikea Montreal, located in the Saint-Laurent area of that city.

The grand opening is on Wednesday.