Calling all shoppers, penny pinchers and nosy neighbors.

The IKEA store at I-85 and City Boulevard will let customers camp out around the big blue box starting Monday at 9 a.m. — two days before it officially opens.

Yes, the grand opening of IKEA’s 356,000-square-foot lineup of Swedish-designed furniture and goods is just that big.

The store has come to the Qcity area thanks to the online signatures of more than 150,000 people, all drooling for three years at the thought of a homegrown IKEA (pronounced eye key ah).

Some were transplants or travelers who got a taste of the retailer’s famed Swedish meatballs in other cities. Others relished the thought of dropping off their kids in the free supervised play area while cruising the packed aisles. But most were folks who wanted to import the IKEA shopping experience with its Scandinavian flair for sleek, stylish furniture and household goods at a cost-conscious price.

For days, store phones have been ringing with people asking two questions: When do you open and do you have any jobs, says Joseph Roth, IKEA’s U.S. director of public affairs.

The answers are: Wednesday, with outside music and entertainment starting at 6 a.m., brief remarks by city and company officials at 8:30 and the official door opening at 9.

Sorry, the store’s 400 jobs are taken.

So what can the uninitiated expect?

What you see here will be pretty much the same products you get in Romania or Hong Kong. IKEA stores don’t change to fit the local culture so much as customers evolve to fit IKEA.

Die-hard southerners, however, will be glad to know that IKEA does offer a more traditional or country line of goods available worldwide, said Roth.

When you walk in, look by the door for tape measures, pencils and note pads, used by customers to remind themselves of things they may need — or want. The stores are laid out so that shoppers are funneled through most of the aisles before winding your way to the exit.

Assembly is generally required as most items are “flat-packed.” Shoppers walk out with boxes, not the big desk you saw on display.

While some might question the wisdom of opening another Big Box store in a struggling economy, IKEA’s low prices have long attracted customers concerned with saving money.

Roth noted that despite all the feel-good reasons for opening the Charlotte store, the final decision hinged on cold, hard business facts. Primarily, there was no other IKEA between Atlanta and northern Virginia.

The Qcity store will be IKEA’s 36th in the United States and 294th worldwide. Officials will pay homage to the brand’s international roots by raising the U.S., Swedish and N.C. flags during opening ceremonies led by Mayor Pat McCory, IKEA’s local store manager and its U.S. manager.

IKEA is opening the store earlier than its originally planned spring debut, Roth says, “because of good weather, a good city and a good construction firm.”

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