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Tampa Ikea will need 350 more workers, eventually

Monica Varela, a 19-year Ikea veteran, will run the store that opens next summer in Tampa. It will be Florida’s largest.

JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times

Monica Varela, a 19-year Ikea veteran, will run the store that opens next summer in Tampa. It will be Florida’s largest.

TAMPA

The Ikea rising near Ybor City now has the familiar blue walls, a store manager and enough qualified candidates in the hopper to fill all 53 management jobs.

The Swedish furniture giant says the 353,000-square-foot building, which will be the biggest Ikea in Florida, is on schedule for a summer opening.

The store will be the chain's first with an expanded Swedish foods department after a successful test in Boston.

Ikea managers, who counted 100,000 Tampa Bay area households on their catalog mailing list when they decided to build the store, say the number has jumped to 170,000 since the chain opened in Orlando a year ago.

The hiring process starts this winter for the other 350 full- and part-time jobs. With rising unemployment and full health benefits for part-timers working as little as 19 hours a week, Ikea expects a flood of applicants. So far the company suggests would-be workers monitor its Web site, ikea.com, for dates when applications will be accepted. Job seekers must apply online.

"It's a full spectrum of jobs including cashiers, warehouse, logistics, interior decorators, staff for our customer child care center and 70 in food services," said store manager Monica Varela. "We can teach the skills, so we look for people who share our values: teamwork, family and preference for practical products that offer style and are good for the money."

It's her first store manager assignment after a 19-year career capped by internal recognition as a poster child for global travel opportunities that can come with an Ikea career.

Born in Cuba, she spent her childhood in Spain, then went to high school and studied design and fashion retailing at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Jobs at Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale's led her to Ikea, which has its U.S. headquarters near Philadelphia. Ikea sent her to management jobs in Spain, France and the New Jersey suburbs of New York City. She was deputy store manager at the first Florida Ikea near Fort Lauderdale before landing the Tampa job.

The experience included supervising sales teams, textiles and logistics, and adapting products to different tastes in some of the 36 countries where Ikea sells furniture and home decor. Juice glasses in some European countries, for instance, are taller and thinner because people don't serve ice cubes.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Tampa Ikea will need 350 more workers, eventually 12/09/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 14, 2008 1:34pm]

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