Nordstrom gala raises $190,000 for nonprofits

Ronald McDonald House, United Way and The Links will benefit

Sean Jones Nordstrom gala
Recording artist Sean Jones entertained Nordstrom Opening Gala attendees.

Upscale retailer Nordstrom pulled out all the stops Wednesday at an opening gala for its new store at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa.

The event, which raised about $190,000 for three nonprofit organizations, attracted a sellout crowd of 1,800 at the newly constructed 140,000-square-foot, three-story space. It’s the retailer’s first full-line Wisconsin store.

From the lights projected onto the building reading “Hello, Milwaukee,” to the complimentary valet, to the hors d’oeuvres and champagne, Nordstrom spared no expense on the soiree.

While he was unsure about the cost of the event, Jamie Nordstrom, president of full-line stores, said 100 percent of proceeds from the $100/ticket event went to the selected charities.

“We sold out 1,800 tickets for this—part of it is the opportunity to raise a lot of money for some great charities,” Nordstrom said.

The three lucky nonprofits were Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin; United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County; and the Milwaukee and Cream City chapters of The Links Inc., which works to combat educational, social and financial challenges facing children and families. The organizations will split the $190,000 proceeds evenly.

The national Links organization has a history of partnering with Nordstrom, which is how its local chapters became aware of the opportunity for a fundraiser, said Jacqueline Moore Bowles, Milwaukee chapter president for The Links.

“When we learned Nordstrom was coming to Milwaukee, we reached out,” said Deidra Edwards, president of the Cream City chapter of The Links.

“We submitted a request, and because of our outstanding community service and commitment to youth in the community” the organization was selected, Moore Bowles said. “That was something that was important to them.”

There were about 100 Links members at the gala Wednesday, along with a generous sprinkling of high profile local luminaries, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Wauwatosa Mayor Kathleen Ehley, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee president and chief executive officer Vincent Lyles, We Energies vice president of local affairs Thelma Sias, and Marquette University Bell Chair in Real Estate Mark Eppli.

Attendees dressed to the nines sipped cocktails and noshed on sushi duos, mini caramel apples and tiny baskets of cheese and fruit. Nordstrom staff was on hand to give makeup tutorials, recommend jewelry and clothing, and bring out shoe sizes for guests, who browsed the merchandise.

Artist Sean Jones played on one level, while a DJ spun tracks on another. Live models posed on pedestals dressed in the latest fashions.

There are four fourth-generation Nordstrom family members on the Seattle-based retailer’s executive team. Jamie and co-presidents Blake and Erik Nordstrom were at the gala Wednesday. The family members attend the store opening galas around the country to introduce themselves to the community, Jamie said.

“These are the people in the community that are going to be shopping here, so what better way to get to know them than throw a party?” Jamie asked.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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