For over a century, Nordstrom has been one of the major players in American style. But how did a local shoe store grow to become a coast-to-coast arbiter of taste? Here’s the history of Nordstrom’s rise.
In 1887, John W. Nordstrom immigrated to the United States from Sweden. Settling in the Pacific Northwest, he purchased a 20-acre potato farm in Washington. A decade later, the Gold Rush lured him to Canada’s Yukon Territory. Unlike the vast majority of prospectors, Nordstrom actually struck gold, amassing a fortune of $13,000 (roughly $380,000 in today’s money). With his new wealth, he moved to Seattle and founded a shoe store in 1901, partnering with a shoe repair shop owned by Seattle resident Carl Wallin.
Soon, Wallin & Nordstrom—the company’s original name— became an Emerald City mainstay, with a loyal base of shoppers who appreciated the boutique’s attention to service. In 1928, Nordstrom sold his shares of the business to two of his sons: Everett and Elmer. Just a year later, Wallin retired and sold his shares as well.
With new owners, and a simplified name, Nordstrom began a period of slow but steady expansion, operating eight stores in two states by the late 1950s. Apparel soon made its way to shelves in 1963, and the company grew its brand to even greater success with the promise of superior customer service.
In 1975, Nordstrom expanded to Alaska, and opened its first Nordstrom Rack clearance store in Seattle—giving it the opportunity to offload excess inventory and appeal to a more middle-class demographic.
Today, there are 373 Nordstrom stores in the United States and Canada, bringing in over $14 billion in sales annually. Like many retailers, Nordstrom is expanding into even more user friendly online services. It’s also investing big money into its first “Nordstrom Local” program, a concept that focuses on personal shopping and styling, rather than on product and merchandising.
Since its humble beginnings in 1901, Nordstrom has established itself as a powerhouse of upscale retail and accessories. Consistently listed by Fortune as one of the top 100 companies to work for, as it tirelessly advocates for quality customer service, and quality treatment of all employees. We’re thrilled its home base is right here in Seattle, and can’t wait to see what stylish looks come out of its doors in the years ahead!
Visit Nordstrom’s flagship store in downtown Seattle at 500 Pine Street. The recently renovated, 7-story department store is a must for a truly Seattle shopping spree.