When the developers of the coming Mayfair Collection in the Burleigh Triangle first hinted more than a year and a half ago that a Nordstrom Rack store would be a likely tenant, and more recently confirmed it, there was subdued excitement.
"Nice to have the Nordstrom name here, finally," was the prevailing sentiment – "but wish it were a full-line Nordstrom store."
After Thursday's announcement that Wauwatosa will, indeed, have its wish, a three-level Nordstrom department store at Mayfair Mall come late 2015, the enthusiasm of shoppers is nigh onto unbridled.
"Very cool!" crowed Kim Wolff-Green on Wauwatosa Patch's Facebook page.
Caley Clinton: "So. Excited."
Beth Jaworski: "This is so fabulous! Woo hoo!"
And from Carol Knuth: "Very excited, they are the one place that has awesome shoes and boots in my size. Now I won't have to travel to the one in Illinois."
That endorsement was particularly gratifying to Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson.
"We started out as a small shoe store in Seattle," Johnson said.
Built from the ground up on fit as well as style
That was in 1901, and it stayed that way a long time.
"It wasn't until the '60s that we got into apparel," Johnson said.
From that humble beginning in the footwear business and late entry in the department store field, Nordstrom grew rapidly, not just in scale and scope but in reputation – making its name stand above the crowd and among the likes of famous houses such as Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Nordstrom now has 117 full-line stores and 119 Nordstrom Racks, the company's economy, clearance and discount line. The full stores' designer apparel lines are considered on par with the best that department stores can offer.
But for many shoppers like Knuth, it's still all about the shoes, and not just the styles.
"Proper fit is super important," Johnson said. "We want customers to walk out of our stores with both the right style and the right fit."
Johnson said that Nordstrom had never let go of that concern after growing beyond the shoe business, and has always wanted to serve shoppers who need special sizes that most stores don't carry because there isn't enough demand for them.
"We'll even sell split sizes," Johnson said – for instance, a left 8 and a right 9.5 for someone whose feet don't quite match.
Nearby Rack will offer shoppers full spectrum
While those willing to pay Nordstrom's prices for top-line style and quality have, like Knuth, been willing to drive to the Chicago area for them – and two years from now won't have to – less demanding or more frugal shoppers should welcome the Nordstrom Rack on Burleigh just as much.
In fact, those with a knowledge of Nordstrom's business model might have guessed that the coming of a Rack was a precursor of news of the bigger store to follow.
"We really like to have our Racks nearby," Johnson said, "and most Racks are located fairly close to a full-line store. The Rack actually began in the basement of our flagship store in downtown Seattle.
"Some of our customers shop in our full-line store and then also go to visit the Rack to shop off price," said Johnson. "That is great and our model of having the two stores close by has worked out well for us over the years. We want to give customers more options.”
"So, in Wauwatosa, the Rack will be roughly a mile away from Mayfair." Johnson said. "We want to make it easy for customers to be able to shop both stores."