by Art Chantry ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
this lovely little gift box from “best’s apparel” will mean nothing to almost all of you out there. i think you have to be an old school seattleite to know what this thing represents. when i say ‘old school’, i mean somebody who has lived in seattle since at LEAST the early 1960′s. but this cool little period designed (we call anything older than a week ‘retro’ now) standard issue box (probably for gloves or hankerchiefs or stockings – all gone now, too) is actually much more than meets the eye. as cool as this box looks (i really miss department store graphics that looked like this), “never judge a box by it’s cover.”
best’s apparel was a very successful popular retail clothing store in downtown seattle back in the 1950′s. i remember women of taste and breeding proudly saying they “bought their frock at best’s”. it was a status brand of quality. in those days in seattle, there were a few major department stores (now all gone) like frederick & nelson and the bon marche. and there was always penny’s and sears (they had catalogs!) but, for real GOOD clothing, you had to go to smaller specialty shops. best’s apparel was, well, like it says, “the best.”
a nearby shop (i even think it was next door) that was a popular family-owned shoe store had bigger ambitions and a large family to feed. so, it decided to invest and expand into retail clothing as well as selling their shoes. to accomplish this, they bought the successful ‘best’s apparel’ and expanded physically into their space, keeping the same inventory and adding shoes (which were good shoes and the old shoe shop was already tremendously successful.) they added their family name (which was also the name on the door of their shoe shop). from that point on, the new expanded apparel AND shoe store was called “nordstom best’s”. as a little kid, i remember it being the hippest coolest clothing store in the region, competing with the largest departments stores in popularity and sales and service. it had “klass.”
after a few years, the ‘best’s’ name was simply dropped (the word combination “nordstrom best’s” was frankly difficult to say. especially when you add the regional eccentric dialect nuance of adding an extra possessive “s” to any business with a family name. for instance, we still called boeing aircraft company, “boeings”. so the name “nordstrom’s best’s” was just too many “s’s”. besides, the clan name as nordstrom. no contest.
and that’s how the giant commercial nordstrom department store chain came into existance. up here in the northwest, we still call it “nordstrom’s”