‘It was the center of Seattle’: Remembering Seattle’s Frederick & Nelson department store

At the annual gathering of the Frederick & Nelson “RFQ club” (retired, fired or quit), memories swirled about the long-closed store. Amazon just isn’t the same.

Right about now, they would be wrapping packages. The phones would be ringing, the Frango mints flying and the line for Santa nearly out the door.

Instead, those who used to work at the iconic downtown Frederick & Nelson department store were gathered in a ballroom at the Best Western Executive Inn, remembering their time in retail and, more importantly, with each other.

The 31st annual gathering of the “RFQ Club” (retired, fired or quit) drew 140 former employees of the store, which held down the corner of Sixth Avenue and Pine Street until it closed in 1992 and Nordstrom took over the space.

“I’m thinking there’s 5,000 years of experience in this room,” said Janet Bell, a former buyer and now Windermere broker who stepped in to help luncheon founder Jan Perry run the event.

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Eleven people had worked there 30 years or more. One couple, Hugh Mann and his wife, Michael, each worked at the store for 40 years.

“It’s really nice to see these people,” said Nick Utzinger, the buyer for the Designer Room and Designer Collections. He still has the high-end pieces that his late mother bought at Frederick & Nelson.

“Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga,” he said, a little dreamily. His sisters wear the clothes now; they come up from Oregon and take what they like.

“Luckily, they’re the same size as my mother,” Utzinger said.

Does he have anything left?

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “My mother was quite the fashion person.”

Anita Zupan flew up from her home near San Jose, California, just to attend the luncheon.

She worked at the Seattle store from 1980 to 1984, when she transferred to the corporate office in New York.

“I haven’t seen anyone since,” she said, before heading…

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