Bruce Nordstrom, who helped build retail fashion chain, dead at 90

SEATTLE — Bruce Nordstrom, who expanded his family’s small chain of Pacific Northwest shoe stores into an international fashion retail giant, died Saturday. He was 90.

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A company spokesperson said that Nordstrom, the chain’s former chairman, died at his Seattle home, KIRO-TV reported.

“Our dad leaves a powerful legacy as a legendary business leader, a generous community citizen and a loyal friend,” Nordstrom’s sons, company CEO Erik Nordstrom and President Pete Nordstrom, said in a statement.

The chain began as a shoe store opened in Seattle by Swedish immigrant John W. Nordstrom -- Bruce Nordstrom’s grandfather -- and a partner in 1901, The New York Times reported.

Bruce Nordstrom was the third generation of the family to run the company. He shared leadership duties with his cousins, John N. Nordstrom and Jim Nordstrom, and Jack McMillan, who was married to their cousin Loyal Nordstrom, according to the newspaper.

Bruce Nordstrom was 30 when his father, Lloyd Nordstrom, promoted him to president of the company in 1963, the Times reported. He decided to follow his father and grandfather’s blueprint of sharing leadership.

“Obviously, the arrangement worked out great,” Bruce Nordstrom wrote in a 2007 autobiography, “Leave It Better Than You Found It.” “It was marvelous for them and it was marvelous for me because it felt like a weight had been taken off my shoulders.”

The new leadership took over the company reins and took it public in 1971, The Associated Press reported.

Starting with seven shoe stores in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, the family expanded to California in 1978, adding a full line of clothing and accessories as it opened stores nationwide, the Times reported.

The store eventually operated 182 stores in 28 states, with retail sales topping $9 billion, according to the newspaper.

The company also launched a lower-priced offshoot, Nordstrom Rack stores, according to the AP.

Bruce Nordstrom retired from his executive role in 1995 and as chairman of the company’s board of directors in 2006, the news organization reported.

Bruce Nordstrom was born on Oct. 1, 1933, in Seattle, the Times reported. When he was 9, he began working at a Nordstrom shoe store in Seattle on Saturdays and during the summer.

He swept floors and broke down cardboard boxes for 25 cents an hour, according to the newspaper.

Bruce Nordstrom earned his bachelor’s degree in 1955 from the University of Washington in Seattle and then joined the Army. He served for six months as a lieutenant at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, before returning home, the Times reported.

When he returned to the Pacific Northwest, Bruce Nordstrom ran one of the company’s stores in Seattle, according to the newspaper.

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