Upscale retailer opens at 3rd Md. site tomorrow

March 17, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

Nordstrom brings its usual pizazz to the Annapolis Mall tomorrow when its third Maryland store opens.

Trumpets will blare as the store gate rises; attendants will be waiting on the Italian marble floors.

But the real attraction might be in the gift gallery on the second floor. That's where you'll find the 8-ounce chocolate western boot, with a 23-karat edible gold tip.

The upscale Seattle-based retailer and 25 other stores in the Nordstrom wing were supposed to open last August. But Washington, D.C.,-based Woodward & Lothrop had a different idea.

Passed over for a spot in Annapolis Mall in favor of Nordstrom, Woodies took the mall to court, arguing that the mall's expansion would lead to traffic congestion and pollution of Weems Creek.

The case eventually was thrown out of court, and Annapolis Mall proceeded with its two-phase, $70 million redevelopment.

The first phase ended in November with the opening of a new food court and the renovation and addition of some stores. But Nordstrom, which takes up 162,000 square feet, is expected to draw the crowds.

"Nordstrom's does not go to a center if it's not a good center," said Timothy Lowe, development director for St. Louis-based CenterMark Properties, the mall's owners.

"Nordstrom's has their choice of centers," he said. "Every center in the U.S. would probably love to have a Nordstrom's."

Job hunters also love the employment opportunities. About 2,600 applied for 350 jobs at Nordstrom, ranging from sales to housekeeping. These jobs make up half the 800 jobs created by the mall's expansion. Nordstrom also has transferred about 50 employees from other locations.

The county's economic development corporation hopes having a Nordstrom will attract companies considering relocating to the area.

"It indicates to people who are looking at the county overall that we have enough base to support a store like Nordstrom's," said spokeswoman Rosemary Duggins.

Maryland's first Nordstrom opened in 1991 at CenterMark's Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The one at Towson Town Center opened in 1992.

The improvements at Annapolis Mall were spurred by five years of watching nearby strip centers erode the mall's market share, Mr. Lowe said. Mall officials also hope the changes will mute customer's urges to shop in New York and D.C.

"We're trying to be more of everything for everybody," he said.

Officials also hope Nordstrom and the other shops will push the mall's sales per square foot from $320 for its smaller stores to the mid-$400 per square foot range, Mr. Lowe said. The industry average is about $275 per square foot, said mall officials.

The Nordstrom story began in 1901 after John W. Nordstrom struck gold in Alaska and put his $13,000 in a Seattle shoe store with a partner. First-day sales were $12.

Last year, the company, which remains in the family after three generations, pulled in more than $3.58 billion.

What has become known as Nordstrom's commitment to customer service began when a customer walked into the Seattle shop and asked John W. for a size 12 shoe. The store didn't have it. But its vendor said it could be made.

"If he didn't have it, he was going to get it," said Cheryl Engstrom, a Nordstrom spokeswoman.

In addition to the usual Nordstrom offerings such as the espresso bar and pianist, the Annapolis store has its own color -- Annapolis Blue -- on items in the gift gallery.

The store has 175 parking spaces underground.

The opening ceremony for the more than 25 new stores at the mall planned for 9:45 a.m. tomorrow in the Nordstrom Court in the mall.

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