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The truth behind the tale: Did someone really return tires to Nordstrom?

Part of the reason that Nordstrom is legendary for its customer service stems back to the tire story. What is the tire story? Many years ago a customer rolled a pair of tires into a Nordstrom store and asked for his money back. Nordstrom has never sold tires and the guy did not produce any kind of a receipt but legend has it that the guy was given a refund.

Truth or urban legend?

Erik and Blake Nordstrom, co-presidents for the Nordstrom retail stores, both say it is a true story. In town for today's opening of the Nordstrom in Ridgedale, Blake Nordstrom said that the return occurred in the mid-1970s in one of the Fairbanks, Alaska stores.

What makes the story less far-fetched is that Nordstrom had purchased three stores in Alaska from Northern Commercial Company, which did sell tires. "We turned the auto store into a men's store, so when the customer rolled the tires into the store, he had a reason to believe that he had gotten the tires there," said Blake Nordstrom.

Nordstrom isn't sure how many tires were returned or the amount of the refund, but he commended the salesperson who accepted the tires and gave the customer a refund. "He used great judgment," Nordstrom said. "He treated the customer like he would like to be treated."

According to Snopes.com, some say that the founder John Nordstrom was there and saw the salesman give money back to the confused customer, but John Nordstrom died in 1963 and the incident supposedly happened in the mid-70s.

I've always wondered why someone hasn't attempted to duplicate the tire return in the 21st Century just to see how Nordstrom would play it out. Since the Nordstrom in Ridgedale took over part of the space formerly occupied by Dayton's/Marshall Field's/Macy's Men + Home store, maybe someone who purchased a bread machine or something at Dayton's men's + home store after 1995 (when Dayton's took over the Carson Pirie Scott location) should see if Nordstrom will take it back. Even better, if anyone still possesses an item with proof that it was purchased at Carson Pirie Scott in Ridgedale, you could be part of Nordstrom's next legend if you're willing and able to take it back.

Will Nordstrom land in Rosedale or downtown Minneapolis?

On Wednesday night I got the chance to ask Blake Nordstrom, co-president of Nordstrom with his brothers Erik and Jamie, about rumors of adding more Nordstrom stores in the Twin Cities. 

As he rubbed elbows in the new Ridgedale store among a well-dressed crowd of dignitaries from the Pacer Center and the Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, I asked him about adding a full-line store in Rosedale and a Nordstrom Rack downtown.

Rosedale announced earlier this summer that it is proposing a two-story expansion in the northeast corner of the mall near J.C. Penney. The expansion includes space for a 140,000 square foot anchor, which is the same size as Nordstrom in the Minnetonka mall.

Nordstrom told me that his company is always looking for new opportunities, but that it took 23 years after they opened the Mall of America store before they found an opening in Ridgedale. (Macy's closing its Men + Home store opened up expansion possibilities at the center.)

But if officials at Rosedale are hopeful about being considered by the Seattle-based retailer, Nordstrom refused to throw them a lifeline. "I don't know of any activities or plans or that we're actively looking at Rosedale," he said.

He seemed more open about the possibility of opening a Nordstrom Rack in downtown Minneapolis. "We have more than 180 Racks open now, and we could have as many as 300 by 2020," he said. "Downtown Minneapolis is a very attractive location with a strong customer base," he said. "There are no plans yet but we have to look into it."

I reminded him that the Twin Cities has an east side too. The two full-line stores are in Bloomington and Minnetonka, and the three Racks are in Bloomington, Maple Grove and St. Louis Park.

St. Paul, Roseville, and Woodbury are just a few eastside options for a Nordstrom Rack.

The Ridgedale Nordstrom opens at 10 a.m. Friday, joining other new stores such as Athleta, Tommy Bahama, Hammer Made, Uptown Minnesota, Michael Kors, Johnston & Murphy, Disney Store and Banana Republic.