It has taken me a week to process Blake’s passing, gather my thoughts and write them down. I am approaching my 30th Anniversary working for Nordstrom and when you have worked someplace that long, your personal and professional selves become weirdly intertwined. I was just a kid when I walked into Store 420 and started what would become my career and Blake was there that very first day, introducing himself to someone new (in this case a summer stock person in Point of View) with a warm smile and a handshake. He remembered my name and said hello every time he saw me, including after the long stretches when I’d return from college, which I found amazing and inspiring. That was my first impression of this company and Blake was one of the big reasons the culture resonated with me so deeply from the very first day I set foot in the store. I could sense immediately this was a place where people genuinely cared about each other, rewarded and recognized hard work and above all put their customers at the center of everything they did. Blake lived all of that every day as our store leader.
A decade later I relocated to Seattle with the company after spending 8 years managing, opening and buying for stores in our Capitol region. During those years I only saw Blake at Store openings, but inspired by him and many other leaders I grew in my career and was excited to come to Seattle and work at our Headquarters. Over the almost 20 years since then I’ve held many, varied roles and had the opportunity to spend time with Blake in meetings, on Company plane trips, walking back and forth together from the buildings on our ‘campus’ and since our offices are on the same floor a week rarely went by when I didn’t see him multiple times. He was endlessly curious, a stickler for details and had a passion for people development which was a pet subject for him. I will really miss the pearls of wisdom gleaned from each conversation (plus I know a lot more about cars and boats than I would if I didn’t know Blake!) I don’t have a lot of personal stories to share about Blake, only the consistency of his warmth, his love for this company and the people in it and the clarity of purpose which he shared with all of us at every opportunity.
If this seems more like a story about me and my journey it’s because of that intertwining I referenced at the beginning. This company is such a big part of who I am and Blake was there from that very first day. I literally grew up under his leadership; his stewardship of his family’s company and legacy. I lost my mom recently as was reminded how you are never really a true grown up until you lose a parent. Well, Blake raised us all well. We are grown ups now and prepared to deliver on the aspirations he had for our company. We have a lot to do and he would want us to get on with it. I will miss Blake but not his legacy, he left that in all of us.