The ad may have read “Christmas is not Christmas without a visit to Frederick & Nelson,” but this year memories, photos and a recipe for a Frango milkshake will have to carry us through.
Wait, there was a “glove counter” at Frederick & Nelson? A place where you rested your elbow on a pad while the clerk fitted your hand with a slinky sheath?
Yes, readers told me. There was also a Steuben glass room that displayed the same pieces that American presidents gifted heads of state. And a stuffed polar bear that loomed over the Paul Bunyan Room — perhaps the only place where people trusted a tuna sandwich that hadn’t been made by their own mothers.
I heard those stories and more after I wrote about the 30th annual meeting of Frederick & Nelson’s “RFQ Club,” where former employees gathered to remember the department store that shines brighter with every change in Seattle’s cityscape. More than 200 commented with their memories on Facebook.
I didn’t arrive in Seattle until 1998 — just as Nordstrom was taking over Frederick & Nelson’s former space on Pine Street. The store had closed in 1992 following ownership changes and a recession.
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But readers made me long to shop there — and to have arrived in Seattle just a little sooner.
Naomi Denhart told me that when you bought a coat at Frederick’s, the label would be sewn in upside-down into the lining, “So when you removed your coat and draped it over the back of your chair,” she said, “anyone could see/read that you’d bought it at Frederick & Nelson.”
One of the best notes came from Jane Pugel, “a nostalgic old lady who misses that store, even as I shop online.”
She wrote of taking the old No. 10 bus from her home in Mount Baker with her small kids in tow “to the very door of Frederick’s.”
The doorman would help her corral them inside and up the stairs, “Where I simply lifted them over an open Dutch door to the baby-sitting room, where they were lovingly cared for by several (well-dressed) women while I shopped and browsed and had a heady few hours off.”
She would get a haircut, shop for sewing supplies, new china, socks for her husband, clothes, shoes, sheets, Frango mints.
“Whatever I needed or longed for,” she wrote, “it was at Frederick’s.”
She would hit the bargain basement then the tea room “for a bracing cup of tea before leaving.” And when her mother was in town, she took her to the Frederick’s eighth-floor restaurant, “with its elegance and huge windows.”
“Frederick’s has moved on, I have moved on,” Pugel wrote. “But I still look at that big white building which is now Nordstrom, and I sigh.”
She should get together with Norine Anderson, who recalled a postcard that showed the store in all its Christmas glory.
“The message, as I recall (it’s been a long time): ‘Christmas is not Christmas without a visit to Frederick & Nelson,’” Anderson wrote.
“I still feel that way.”
It might help to make this recipe for Frango Mint milkshakes.
If that doesn’t do the trick, you could visit the John L. Scott Real Estate office in West Seattle, where the chandelier and staircase from the old Frederick & Nelson store are still serving buyers, according to owner Tyler McKenzie.
The pieces were brought into the historic J.F. Henry Building by the landlord, Tom Henry, a Frederick’s alum who remodeled the building in the early ’90s for his high-end kitchen supply business.
“ … He rescued the store’s grand stairway and chandelier from certain destruction,” McKenzie said. “Both now reside in and anchor our space.”
The space also includes art by McKenzie’s late father, the artist Richard McKenzie. Lots of memories in one building.
“It’s an office space, but it’s a public space, and we’re part of the community,” he said. “And all of the features combine old-world Seattle with the 21st century.”
I warned him — people may come in from time to time to stand there, remembering walking up those stairs in the service of a customer, rushing down in the holiday hurry, or being carried in their mother’s arms.
“I’d rather they came in to buy houses,” McKenzie said, ever the businessman. “But we welcome the traffic.”