Blake Nordstrom will be remembered as a corporate leader, a philanthropist and advocate for the less fortunate.
Seattle lost one of its truly great business and community leaders this week.
Blake Nordstrom, co-president of the retail giant that carried his family name for four generations and raised the bar for customer service, died Wednesday at age 58.
Nordstrom was known for his humility, innovation and taking extra steps that demonstrated care and consideration for others. He was also a generous philanthropist and advocate for the less fortunate in the Greater Seattle area.
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Trade publication Women’s Wear Daily lauded Nordstrom as “The Gentleman Retailer” and “an even-keeled voice for change in department store retailing.”
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The great-grandson of company founder John W. Nordstrom, a Swedish immigrant, Blake Nordstrom began working in the stockroom of the downtown Seattle store at 11. He rose through the ranks to become co-president in 1995 and sole president during a transformative period between 2000 and 2015, as the business invested heavily in electronic commerce. Since 2015 he led the company with brothers Pete and Erik Nordstrom.
Amid intense competition and contraction in traditional retail, Nordstrom continued to grow and invest in top-notch customer service, new stores and retail concepts. At the end of its last fiscal year, Nordstrom had grown to 369 stores in 40 states and Canada, with 72,500 employees in 2017.
Blake Nordstrom had served on a number of other boards, including the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Downtown Seattle Association and Whole Foods Market, Inc.
Brad Smith, Nordstrom chairman of the board, spoke of his “deep commitment to employees, customers and the communities we serve,” in a statement about Nordstrom’s passing.
That was especially clear in Seattle.
Among the countless examples: Blake Nordstrom played an important role in revitalizing downtown Seattle in the 1990s, and he and his wife, Molly, co-chaired United Way of King County’s major gifts effort for six years. A University of Washington graduate who rowed crew, he continued to support the standout program on the Board of Washington Rowing Stewards.
In short, Blake Nordstrom was a remarkable leader for a quintessential Seattle company.