TAMPA — Jana Bailey started shopping at the Container Store as a pre-teen. She had boxes for her hair clips, boxes for her jewelry and boxes for her stickers.
When she went to college, she bought boxes for under her bed and totes for her toiletries. Then came marriage, a baby and more boxes.
Thirty years later, her lifelong passion for organization paid off when she was crowned "Super Fan'' of the Container Store in Tampa, which opened Saturday at 4720 W Spruce St., across from International Plaza. The store is the first in the Tampa Bay area and third for Florida.
"If you have an organizational gene you get very excited about this store,'' said Bailey, 42, of St. Petersburg, who got to be first in line. "I can't wait.''
As the store's "Super Fan'' Bailey received a $250 shopping spree and box full of store goodies. Employees cheered as she walked into the store pushing a golden shopping cart and wearing a crown and sash.
The Dallas-based chain chooses a "Super Fan'' for every store opening based on essays from customers stating why they love the store. Officials said Bailey won based on her longtime devotion and the fact that her entire family share her organizational enthusiasm.
Her mother, Mary Lou Hadley, who came to the opening with Bailey's husband and daughter, hasn't met a box she can't find a use for. She even arranges her gift wrap bows in colored-coded boxes.
"I'm a little over the top,'' she said, laughing.
That quest for order filled the store as shoppers hunted for the perfect pencil box, belt holder and sandwich keeper. Joy and Jarod Williams of Tampa had never been to a Container Store but heard all the buzz and wanted to check it out. Like many shoppers, they found things they never knew they needed, like a sealable bag for their suitcase, essentially a bag for a bag.
"They have every type of hook, every type of box you can imagine,'' Joy said, giddy at the possibilities. "We'll be here a lot."
For many fans, the store's arrival was a long time coming. Loretta Harjers of Clearwater said she goes to the store in New York City once a year and was thrilled to hear a location was opening in Tampa, the 59th store nationwide. Can a bunch of boxes change her life? Oh, yeah.
"It makes you feel like your house is in order,'' she said, noting that order means less clutter but also peace of mind.
Her friend, Mary Monelle of Seminole, said she can always find something she needs, a trait the store is banking on.
The grand opening festivities continue today with store raffles and $15 gift cards for anyone who spends $100.
Ten percent of all weekend sales will go to the Junior League of Tampa, a volunteer group devoted to helping local children and families.