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Ikea's first customer 10 years ago now a father of 5
Peter Aragon remembers his first media interview like it happened yesterday.
A radio reporter from News 1130 knocked on his tent door and woke him up to ask why he was camped out in front of the new Ikea in Coquitlam.
“All I could think about was, ‘Why is this person up and working at 5:30 in the morning?” he said with a laugh.
It wasn’t long before Aragon had many visits from reporters peeping into his cramped quarters with a microphone, notepad or camera pointed in his direction.
“I don’t know if I became famous or infamous because of what I did,” Aragon said last week while flipping through a photo album of cut-out newspaper articles that captured his adventure a decade ago.
It was March 2002 when Aragon got tipped off by two friends, who had just been hired by Ikea Coquitlam, about a contest that would award $5,000 in Ikea gift cards to the first customer in line.
Ten days before the $97-million store on Woolridge Street opened — then the fifth largest Ikea in the world at 330,000 sq. ft. — Aragon pitched his tent.
“I thought, ‘Why not? I’ve got nothing to do.’ I was 26 years old.”
The living conditions weren’t so rough, he recalled. Aragon was able to use the construction crews’ toilets and his girlfriend, Joy, was in constant contact, delivering personal items and home-cooked meals. Strangers dropped off food for him and others in the line-up.
“We got lots of pizza,” he said. “I think people felt sorry for us.”
When ribbon-cutting day finally arrived, an exhausted but excited Aragon walked through the front doors and claimed his grand prize.
Aragon and his girlfriend gave away $1,000 to their parents but used the balance to buy items they had already picked out from the Ikea catalogue. “We basically knew what we wanted so we got just about everything that day,” Aragon said.
Among their purchases, which were used to replace Joy’s old furniture in her basement suite, were: a bed and dresser, dining room table with chairs, storage bench, couch, entertainment unit, side tables, lamps, picture frames, computer table, compact disk case, duvets and sheets.
Most of those items moved with them as they got engaged, then married.
And they surely came in handy as they started a family.
The Aragons, who bought their first home in 2005 in Coquitlam, now have five children: Kilara, seven; Jacob, five; Lucas, four; Alexis, two; and Evaley, one.
Much of that 10-year-old Ikea furniture remains but they also have some new additions for their brood, including adjoining bunk beds, a toy shelf and kids’ dressers.
Today, the Aragons often return to their favourite store, which last week marked its 10th anniversary with prizes for shoppers.
Aragon, an online marketer, said he was honoured to be invited to a special VIP shindig in March where he was recognized not only for his crazy antics but for being Ikea Coquitlam’s biggest fan.
“Someone just called me out of the blue and said, ‘Are you the Peter Aragon that camped out before our store opened?’ They wanted me to come to their party, which was really nice,” he said.
And he didn’t walk away empty-handed. The company presented him with free Ikea toys for his young ones.