PICO BLVD — For upscale fashion retailer Nordstrom, diversity goes beyond the collection sitting on its racks or the faces of employees manning the floor.
With construction expected to break ground on the Seattle-based department store’s second Westside location this summer, Nordstrom officials heading the Santa Monica Place project on Wednesday held an open house at the Sheraton Delfina to solicit interest from women and minority-owned subcontracting businesses.
The 128,000 square-foot department store is slated to open in the former Robinsons-May building at the corner of Broadway and Second Street next year, serving as one of two anchors — the other being Bloomingdale’s — for the renovated open-air mall.
That project, whose final price tag has yet to be determined, will likely involve a team of minority and/or women subcontractors thanks to a 20-year-old company program that seeks to provide more opportunities to historically socially-disadvantaged groups.
More than a dozen businesses reserved a spot at the three-hour open house to learn more about the project and procedure that the company uses for selecting vendors.
“It’s giving back and being part of the community and helping the economic development of the community,” said Christine Young, the manager of the Supplier Diversity Program.
The company is looking to fill approximately 60 subcontracting trades for the project, covering everything from painting to carpet installation.
“There’s really no limit to it,” said Mike Fedorchek, the vice president of Matt Construction, which is the general contractor. “The important part is it’s not limited to just the prime subcontractor level, it’s anywhere throughout the whole supply chain.”
Many minority contractors face challenges of access when trying to land deals for projects, said Kevin Ramsey, the president of the National Association of Minority Contractors — Southern California.
“The people that have the big jobs do business with people they’re used to doing business with, which most of the time are not minority contractors,” he said. “They think it might be risky and that they don’t have the capacity.”
Theresa Thomas, owner of NT Thomas Construction in Orange, was one of the contractors who attended the open house, learning about it through an advertisement.
“We have quite a bit of experience in restaurants, a lot in commercial tenant improvement,” she said. “It sounded like certainly something we could work with.”
Clint Kendall, the project manager for Nordstrom, said that women and minority-owned firms typically tend to be small and therefore don’t believe they have a chance to participate in Nordstrom’s projects.
“They assume that we have the people lined up that we want to use and we are trying to explain there are opportunities,” Kendall said.
Construction for the project is expected to take about a year, breaking ground in July. Nordstrom plans to keep the existing structure in place but make some changes to the exterior, including pulling the recessed entrances out and adding more transparency through glass. The current brick facade is expected to remain the same, Kendall said.
Kendall said the company decided against demolition to keep the project time and cost down.
“To tear it down and start over means the whole hassle of staging steel and having a crane and all of those elements would make it much more difficult,” Kendall said. “It’s a real advantage to have it there.”