Thursday, September 1, 2011

No, I Didn't Try The Meatballs

Some time ago I wrote an article about shopping in New Haven. I oh-so-imaginatively called it New Haven: Not Just IKEA because it was about a select number of shops that are less obvious than the city's most brightly-painted, visible-from-the-highway, really freaking big store. About ten local Patch sites ran the story. The editor of one of them, however, decided to change the headline to New Haven: Food, Culture, and IKEA. This is the kind of thing that's really embarrassing when you're a writer. Because while some readers know that writers usually don't provide their own headlines, most do not. They - reasonably - then get all confused about why a headline promising food, culture, and tasteful flat-packed Swedish furniture in fact delivers none of those things.

And of course it also popped up on the radar of the marketing people at the New Haven IKEA, who contacted me to say, in a very polite way, "Wha??" And I said I didn't write the headline, and they invited me to tour the store, and I said sure why not, and so I went over to the Elm City to get some inside information about meatballs and umlauts while following those familiar arrows on the floor.

It's always tempting to be around housewares and furniture and all the little decorating bits and pieces you could want, because though I love looking at that stuff, I rarely buy any. In fact I own basically two pieces of furniture. (However, I realized they both come from IKEA.) When you move a lot, you develop rather a phobia about accumulating things - it's really nice when everything you own can either be rolled up or taken apart and shoved into your small car. So though I was persuaded to sign up for a "Family" discount card, I didn't buy anything. But here are a few things I learned on my tour:

-The cinnamon buns are pretty good. Roughly half my daily allotment of calories, but good.
-IKEA sells appliances. Who knew? They're made by Whirlpool, but they say IKEA.
-The store has a section called "As Is," right near the exit, where items which have been returned without directions, or displayed in the store - sometimes for just a short time - are sold at crazily marked-down prices.
-There's a fiber called lyocell, which is used to make a fabric that's similar to cotton but that uses less water to produce. It's made from wood.
-IKEA's thing at the moment is small spaces - how to set them up, maximize them, decorate them, etc. If my little efficiency could have seen the "small" model apartments, it would have cried. But for normal people the spaces would indeed be considered small, and if this means there's some kind of anti-McMansion trend, I'm all for it.
-The idea for the restaurant part of the store came about because people were giving up on their shopping at lunchtime. Now it's a huge draw in itself. (And it's just huge - the one in New Haven can accommodate about 400 people.)

So anyway, if you do go shopping in New Haven, go to the small boutiques but yes, also go to IKEA. And by all means try some culture and food, too. Just don't ever believe what you read in a headline!

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