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Nordstrom-An American Dream

By Edited Jun 22, 2015 1 3

John W. Nordstrom (1871-1963)
Credit: shop.nordstrom.com

History of Nordstrom's

In the year 1887 a young swedish lad who did not speak a word of English, left his homeland of Sweden for the American dream. With only five dollars in his pocket, he left his beloved Country of Sweden and arrived on American soil. His name John W. Nordstrom. 

The first years of John W. Nordstrom's life, was not a walk in the park. He took on menial jobs, working in logging camps and coal mines.  Working his away across the United States from New York to Washington state. By 1897 John Nordstrom was able to save enough money purchasing a potato farm, in Arlington Washington. One morning while browsing through the newspaper, he ran across the headline that read, " Gold found in the Klondike in Alaska". The very next day he packed and headed for Alaska. 

Working the Klondike was treacherous, the terrain was difficult and there were more workers then there was Gold. Working diligently for the next two years, John W. Nordstrom was able to earn $13,000 dollars in a gold mine stake and was able to return to Seattle, Washington. Once he arrived back into Seattle, he was able to marry Hilda Carlson and began to look for a business venture. 

Befriending a gentleman by the name of Carl Wallin when they were working the Klondike, John Nordstrom took his hard-earned savings and partnered with Carl opening a shoe store called Wallin & Nordstrom. This was the beginning of the department store famously known today as Nordstrom's . 

John's philosophy from the beginning evolved around quality, exemplary service, selection and value. The company had a very devoted following and in 1923, Wallin & Nordstrom opened their second store. 

Five years later in 1928 John Nordstrom decided to retire and sold his share to his two sons, Elmer and Everett. One year later Carl decided to retire and sold his share to John's third son Lloyd in 1933. 


Throughout the years, Nordstrom's continued to grow becoming the largest independent shoe store in the continental United States. By 1960 Nordstrom's had eight stores in  Oregon and Washington. The downtown shoe store in Seattle, was the largest shoe store in the Country. 

By 1963 Nordstrom's was looking to branch out and expand, purchasing Best apparel; they were able to offer their customers not only shoes, but also fine apparel. Another merger was to follow three years later and in 1966, Nordstrom purchased a fashion retail store in Portland Oregon. Giving it the name Nordstrom Best. In the same year, men's fashion and children's clothing were added giving their customers an even larger selection. Finally in 1968 with profitability high, they were able to open two new stores in Washington. 

Nordstrom's continued to progress, the next five years proved  successful. Nordstrom's surpassed the $100 million milestone, the company went public and became the largest volume speciality store in the United States. In the same year, 1971 they changed the name to Nordstrom Inc. Continuing  success, Nordstrom's opened a clearance center in 1975 in Alaska. By 1978 they opened stores in California and 10 years later, opened a department store in Virginia.

While Nordstrom's continued to grown nationally, they always focused on the customers' needs individually. They created departments that fit every individual's lifestyle. 

Today Nordstrom's operates 112 full-line department stores, 68 Nordstrom rack clearance centers, 2 Jeffrey Boutiques and 28 clearance centers called Last Chance located in 28 states across the Country. Nordstrom's will continue their expansion through 2012. Opening stores in Charlotte, Nashville, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Naples, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, St. Louis and San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

John W. Nordstrom's philosophy has not changed since 1901; Offer the customer quality, exemplary service, value and selection. 110 years later Nordstrom's is still going strong. 


©  2011 AEvans/White Orchids on HP 




Oct 14, 2011 8:54pm
Interesting. I had worked for Nordstrom but had not heard or read this much in the way of detail about the company or its founder.
Oct 14, 2011 10:20pm
Nordstrom is a wonderful department store! I enjoyed researching it and gaining knowledge about it's history. There are times when we work for a company and do not gain much insight, that is completely understandable. To the outside public that only shops, they normally enjoy finding it informative. John Nordstrom was an amazing individual and my hat goes off to the founding father and his family. I am glad you enjoyed the article. :)
Dec 16, 2011 3:47am
You provided a detailed history of Nordstrom. It is well known store but I never knew about its' humble beginnings.
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