Noreen, Nordstrom’s, and Nowadays

Jan 17, 2019 | 2 comments

BIG but Too Small

“It ain’t like it used to be” is almost a mantra in our household these days – a sure sign that we’ve grown long in the tooth and, probably, not gracefully.  This morning it had to do with Nyel’s current foot and shoe problems.

Although he has his surgeon’s okay to put weight on his foot, he is finding it impossibly painful to do so.  As in so many problems to do with health and lack thereof, the reasons for this are probably multiple, arthritis being the main culprit.  For years now, Nyel has worn custom-made orthotic inserts in his shoes which help alleviate said pain but, currently, his left foot is so swollen that he cannot get his shoe on.  The reason for the swelling says his primary care doctor is “a combination of surgery aftermath and his congestive heart failure problems.”  Great.

First Nordstrom Store Seattle

“Maybe you’ll have to have a custom-made shoe,” said I (helpfully, I hoped.)  Nyel already wears a size 13 Triple E which is the largest he’s been able to find in the type of shoe he needs. There was a long silence following my suggestion.  You know – that kind of silence which tells you that you have been the opposite of helpful.  But then the conversation segued into “remember when Nordstrom used to specialize in foot and shoe problems?”

Nyel got his first Nordstrom credit card (which they won’t let him use anymore) in 1966 – just three years after the (then) 55-year-old store had begun carrying some items of women’s clothing.  They had started as a shoe store, Wallin and Nordstrom, in 1901 and prided themselves on service.  As we “remembered” all that, Noreen came into the conversation.

Noeeen Robinson (1925-2006)

Noreen Robinson had suffered from polio as a child and it left her with disparate sized feet.  She once told me that she had always purchased her shoes at Nordstrom – the left shoe and the right shoe each from a different pair.  And even though they had to break up two pairs to make the sale, Nordstrom’s only charged her for one pair.  Noreen swore by Nordstrom!

Now that they are digitized, incorporated, up-scaled, and out of our network, we doubt that their customer service extends as far as it did in Noreen’s time.  But… maybe it’s worth a phone call to see what would be entailed in getting a custom-made shoe.  Especially if elevating, wrapping, icing, and all other shrinking methods don’t work.  But… I suspect we’ll find “it ain’t like it used to be.”


  1. Rosemary Hickman

    Yes, Nordstroms still sells two shoes of different sizes for the price of one pair. There must be at least a 1 and 1/2 size difference between the two shoes. Love having a store that continues a much needed service!

  2. Jean Nitzel

    You might check with Larry holland in Menlo, he used to make shoes! i bet he still can.


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