As stockers plied the racks and shelves with mer­chan­dise in the new Nordstrom in Ridgedale Center last week, salespeople sat in groups of 10 to 12 dis­cuss­ing ways to de­light cus­tom­ers.

Shoe de­part­ment employees talked about keep­ing tis­sue and card­board clut­ter out of cus­tom­ers’ sight. Cos­met­ics employees dis­cussed ways to ac­knowl­edge a wait­ing cus­tom­er while help­ing an­oth­er guest. Flip charts with hand­writ­ten words such as “real,” “hon­est,” “com­fort­a­ble,” “genu­ine” and “re­spect” were placed near each group.

It’s but a glimpse behind the cur­tain of a spe­cial­ty re­tail­er prized for its qual­i­ty mer­chan­dise but es­pe­cial­ly for treat­ing its cus­tom­ers like roy­al­ty.

The Se­at­tle-based re­tail­er, which has been in the Twin Cities at the Mall of America since it op­ened in 1992, is a crown jewel for any mall. Its open­ing at Ridgedale this week is a turn­ing point af­ter near­ly three years of re­con­struc­tion at the mall in Minnetonka.

“It’s a home run for Ridgedale,” said Mar­tin Sneider, ad­junct pro­fes­sor of mar­ket­ing at Washington University in St. Louis. “They’re ap­peal­ing to the Mid­west­ern cus­tom­er who wants great cus­tom­er serv­ice and good brands in a nice set­ting.”

Nordstrom oc­cu­pies a new build­ing in a spot where Macy’s ran a men’s and home store. Af­ter clos­ing that, Macy’s add­ed more than 80,000 feet to its main store in Ridgedale.

Nordstrom’s new store is 140,000 square feet, about two-thirds the size of its Mall of America store. And un­like that lo­ca­tion, the new store has win­dows, bring­ing nat­u­ral light to its sleek, white in­te­ri­or. And from the out­side at night, the win­dows show off what’s in­side and dis­tin­guish the store from the plain walls of the rest of the mall.

Along with some lux­u­ry brand bou­tiques in the Gal­ler­ia in Edina, Nordstrom is one of the most ex­pen­sive places to shop in the Twin Cities. But it has sur­vived in a mar­ket where Nei­man Mar­cus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloo­ming­dale’s didn’t, in part by mov­ing into the sweet spot for cus­tom­er serv­ice long oc­cu­pied by Minnesota’s be­lov­ed Dayton’s, which, through a suc­ces­sion of deals, be­came part of Macy’s.

Erik Nordstrom, great-grand­son of Nordstrom’s found­er and now co-pres­i­dent of the com­pany with his two bro­thers, re­calls com­pet­ing with Dayton’s at the open­ing of the Mall of America store, which he man­aged for three years.

“That was good for us,” Nordstrom said. “We need to have that same fo­cus on each cus­tom­er in Ridgedale. A big part of the serv­ice busi­ness is hu­mil­i­ty and learn­ing to lis­ten to the cus­tom­er.”

Lux­u­ry re­tail an­a­lyst Pam Dan­zig­er of U­ni­ty Mar­ket­ing in Penn­syl­vania said that Nordstrom ap­peals to mid­dle-in­come and af­flu­ent shop­pers. “Nordstrom is the more demo­crat­ic of the brands,” she said. “Nord­strom isn’t e­lit­ist. They hit pre­mium price points but not lux­u­ry price points.”

Nei­man Mar­cus, based in Dal­las, is per­ceived as Texas oil mon­ey. Saks is all about 5th Avenue, Wall Street and New York. Nordstrom, mean­while, sprung up from a hum­ble shoe store in Se­at­tle in 1901. Like Dayton’s, Nordstrom fits Minnesota’s sen­si­bili­ties, said Beth Perro-Jarvis of Gin­ger Con­sult­ing.

“Time­less, nice and prac­ti­cal,” she said. “They have open­ing price points for mid-level shop­pers, but can just as eas­i­ly satis­fy the Ma­ple Grove shop­per who may not look the part but has a Bur­berry scarf and wal­let and a se­cond home on Gull Lake.”

Nordstrom said the com­pany aims high in its level of mer­chan­dise and serv­ice and wide in the peo­ple it wants to reach.

“We need to feel wel­com­ing to all. We have great de­sign­ers and ac­ces­si­ble price points.” Nordstrom said. “Lux­u­ry in­stills a sense of ex­clu­sivi­ty. We’re not a lux­u­ry re­tail­er.”

The Mall of America store is “one of our best per­form­ing stores by any meas­ure,” Nord­strom said. The Ridgedale store will be the com­pany’s 120th de­part­ment store, along with 188 Rack out­let stores by Thursday, in­clud­ing lo­ca­tions in Mall of America, Ma­ple Grove and St. Louis Park.

In part be­cause it is two stor­ies in­stead of three, the new Ridgedale store will be a dif­fer­ent ex­peri­ence than the one at the Mall of America. “It’s easi­er to shop through­out the store and dis­cover new de­part­ments and brands cus­tom­ers may not have shopped be­fore,” said Steph­a­nie Johnson, who is man­ag­ing the new store.

While brands such as Ash­ley Graham lin­ge­rie and Pen­field for young men will be ex­clu­sive to Ridgedale, well-heeled shop­pers used to trip­ping through Pra­da and Cha­nel bou­tiques in Mall of America won’t find such de­sign­er ap­par­el in Ridgedale. “We had to make some de­ci­sions about the best way to use that [small­er] space,” Johnson said. “We’re also deal­ing with lim­its de­sign­ers place on the dis­tri­bu­tion of their pro­ducts.”

Even if Nordstrom want­ed a Cha­nel bou­tique in Ridgedale, the de­sign house may have nixed it. “Cha­nel is very care­ful about the num­ber and place­ment of its prod­uct,” said Sneider, the mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sor. “Mall of America and Macy’s in Herald Square bring an in­flux of tour­ists. Ridgedale might not at­tract that many.”

In­i­tial­ly, the Nordstrom store at the Mall of America didn’t car­ry the ultraluxury brands. It’s pos­si­ble the as­sort­ment at the new store in Ridgedale could change based on cus­tom­er de­mand. Johnson said that cus­tom­ers can ask salespeople to bring de­sign­er pro­ducts into the Ridgedale store.

Pam Olson of How­ard Lake, who was shop­ping at Ridgedale last week, said she’s very ex­cit­ed about Nord­strom but had al­read­y heard rumors about the midlevel as­sort­ment. “Ridgedale is my clothes clos­et,” Olson said. “I hope I can find brands like Di­ane von Fur­sten­berg or Catherine Malandrino.”

Ana­lysts say that when Nordstrom en­ters a mall, other re­tail­ers flock to be near it. Since Ridgedale signed up Nordstrom two years ago, more than 20 re­tail­ers have signed leas­es, in­clud­ing Pot­ter­y Barn, Williams-So­no­ma, Brooks Brothers, Tommy Bahama, Michael Kors and Cre­a­tive Kidstuff.

Dave Bren­nan, co-di­rec­tor of the Institute for Re­tail­ing Excellence at the University of St. Thomas, said that Ridgedale was a tired cen­ter be­fore sign­ing Nordstrom in early 2013. “Five or six years ago they were going to do a ma­jor re­model, but General Growth went through bank­rupt­cy and it nev­er hap­pened,” he said. “Bring­ing in Nordstrom is in­cred­i­ble good for­tune.”

General Growth, the mall’s own­er, doesn’t re­lease sales per square foot at its centers. Dick Grones, prin­ci­pal of Cambridge Com­mer­cial Re­al­ty in Edina, es­ti­mates that Ridgedale’s is in the low $400s, well be­low the $704 per square foot that the Mall of America gets and the $600 per square foot at Rose­dale. Grones said he ex­pects sales to “in­crease more than $150 per square foot with­in two years af­ter Nordstrom opens.”

Pady Reg­nier is one local store own­er who want­ed to get into Ridgedale as soon as she heard about Nordstrom. Her Up­town Minnesota store also opens there this week. “I wouldn’t have op­ened Up­town and tak­en over the Swarovski store in Ridgedale if I didn’t know Nordstrom was going there,” she said.

“We’re try­ing to cre­ate an emo­tio­nal con­nec­tion with a cus­tom­er that oth­er re­tail­ers don’t have,” Reg­nier said. “Nordstrom is like that, too. They’re not a com­mod­i­ty.”