The Store That Runs on a Wrench

An invader from Scandinavia creates a build-it-yourself empire

At a cavernous store in the Washington suburb of Dale City, Va., thousands of shoppers lined up last week with box-laden carts at a battery of check-out counters. A supermarket perhaps? Or a Toys "R" Us store? No, these bargain hunters were buying furniture. The boxes of all shapes and sizes contained build-it-yourself kits for assembling everything from chairs to cabinets. It may seem an odd way to furnish a house, but not to the throngs of customers who were grabbing, hauling and finally staggering out of the store.

The commotion was stirred by the annual sale taking place at the...