Some stores just have an association or an image that elevates them from shopping site to cultural destination. Say Saks Fifth Avenue and you think New York City sophistication. Neiman Marcus? Over-the-top Texas luxury. For shoppers still seeking a replacement for the New England style that was Filene’s or Jordan Marsh, there’s a new iconic entry into that special strata – Nordstrom – that comes with a legend all its own.
Some stores just have an association or an image that elevates them from shopping site to cultural destination. Say Saks Fifth Avenue and you think New York City sophistication. Neiman Marcus? Over-the-top Texas luxury.
For shoppers still seeking a replacement for the New England style that was Filene’s or Jordan Marsh, there’s a new iconic entry into that special strata – Nordstrom – that comes with a legend all its own.
Starting Friday, local shoppers will get to take part in the store’s continuing narrative as Nordstrom opens at 10 a.m. at South Shore Plaza in Braintree. It’s the Seattle-based company’s fourth store in the region after entering in 2007. Other stores are in Providence, Burlington, Peabody and Natick.
The Nordstrom story began in 1901, when John W. Nordstrom opened a shoe store in Seattle. Since then, various members of the Nordstrom family have helped to grow the company from a regional department store to a national chain that has 113 stores.
Along the way it earned a nickname, Nordy’s, and an entry in the pop culture Urban Dictionary – the noun "Nordy Girl" by the author Nordylicious. Not to mention a legion of devotees such as Jill VanTrease, who knows the Nordy lore well. After all, at the impressionable age of 3, she got her first pair of shoes at the Seattle location. More than 30 years later, VanTrease pens a blog called “Pining for Nordstrom” from her home in the Nordstrom-less city of Tulsa, Okla.
VanTrease said she is envious of South Shore shoppers who will have their own Nordstrom. It’s not so much the designer merchandise, either, because you can get that online. It’s the history, atmosphere and service, she said.
“You can go in there and look like hell with screaming kids and they still want to help you,” said VanTrease, who has four children and is pregnant with her fifth. “You could be having a bad day, but they are always happy to see you. Maybe it’s the live piano music. It’s very calm and the lighting is golden. It’s not that awful fluorescent that’s at other places.”
Nordstrom has built its reputation emphasizing customer service. So much so that a book titled “The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service and Excellence,” was written in 2005. In it authors Robert Spector and Patrick McCarthy examine the Nordstrom approach to customer service.
Local shoppers are buzzing about Friday’s opening.
“It’s really exciting to have upper-end fashion like this available on the South Shore. Now people don’t have to travel to Natick,” said Linda Holliday, who co-hosts the Fashion Forward segment on New England Cable News’s “styleboston” television show.
A longtime Nordstrom shopper, Holliday last bought a pair of Jimmy Choo wedges for spring.
“Customer service is one of the biggest things. They’ve worked with me to find sizes and colors. I go there to find everything from the latest trends to Lilly (Pulitzer)” Holliday said.
Josephine Lee, 39, of Cohasset is so excited about the Nordstrom opening that she planned to go last Tuesday to buy a bathing suit, until she found out the store wasn’t open yet.
“I don’t normally leave the South Shore, so this is really great. I love the variety. I like their upscale designers, cosmetics. I just like everything about that store,” Lee said. “We have nothing like it on the South Shore.”
Sophie Luke-Hall, 24, of Hingham, also plans to shop at Nordstrom. “I like their tops, shoes and cosmetics. I love to shop. I enjoy it very much. It’s like the best therapy possible.”
Wearing a pair of peep-toed BCBG Max Azria pumps, Corrinne Tortai, 53, of South Grafton looks like a snapshot of a Nordstrom shopper. She’s a regular at the store in Natick.
“I like the elegance of it. The atmosphere, the shoes and the bags. The service makes a difference,” said Tortai, originally from the south of France. She especially likes the selection of French cosmetics, including her favorite perfume 24 Faubourg by Hermes.
Unlike other department stores, Nordstrom doesn’t offer coupons but there are three major sales a year – an anniversary sale in July, a men’s half-yearly and a women’s half-yearly.
Speaking from experience, VanTrease, who cut her teeth shopping at the Bellevue, Wash., store, said the July sale is a “fun madhouse.”
“You are waiting outside in line at 7 a.m. It’s so much fun. I’m so jealous of you guys,” said VanTrease, during a cell phone call from her vacation in Virginia last week. Naturally, she was on her way to Nordstrom.
Reach Patriot Ledger writer Dana Barbuto at firstname.lastname@example.org.