Washington State Breeds Brands Known Around the World

Companies that call Washington home, many of them with histories in the state that span more than 100 years, are pioneers in everything from information technology and aerospace to life sciences and retail. Washington's business climate has brought to life iconic brands such as Amazon, Costco, Microsoft and Starbucks.

Jessica Walker Boehm
On Monday, December 9, 2013 - 16:40
Step on an airplane, fire up your PC or order a premium cup of coffee and you're sampling some of the best of Washington state. Companies that call Washington home, many of them with histories in the state that span more than 100 years, are pioneers in everything from information technology and aerospace to life sciences and retail. Brands that Set the Bar Globally known brands have given Washington a reputation as the home of industry-creating innovation. Membership warehouse club Costco opened its first location in 1983 in Seattle and became the first company ever to grow from zero to $3 billion in sales in less than six years. Global coffee seller Starbucks opened its doors in Seattle in 1971; today the company is the largest coffeehouse in the world, with more than 18,000 stores in 62 countries. The world's largest software maker, Microsoft was founded in 1975 and is headquartered in Redmond. The world's largest online retailer, Amazon.com was founded in 1995 in a garage in Bellevue. And Boeing, the world's largest aerospace company, was founded in 1916 in Seattle. The state is also home to the Century Club, companies that have more than 100 years of continuous operation, some of them multigenerational family businesses and many of them known far beyond Washington. Nordstrom: Built on Being the Best Nordstrom opened its doors in downtown Seattle in 1901. Founder John W. Nordstrom had made $13,000 in the Klondike gold rush, and with business partner Carl Wallin decided to open a shoe store. Focusing on extraordinary customer service, quality and value, the company soon became the biggest independent shoe chain in the country. In the early 1960s, Nordstrom added apparel and accessories. Starting with its small flagship store, the company has grown to 244 stores in 33 states and is currently run by a fourth generation of the Nordstrom family. One thing hasn't changed. The retailer still follows the philosophy of its founder: "Offer the customer the best possible service, selection, quality and value." "Washington is home for us," says company spokesperson Colin Johnson. "Ever since our founding, when we were just a small shoe store on Fourth and Pike, customers from all across the state have been incredibly supportive of our business. Over the past 112 years, we've done our best to try and serve many different communities in Washington and, though we know we haven't always gotten it right, we recognize it's been our Washington customers that have contributed to us becoming one of the leading fashion specialty retailers." Bartell Drugs: A Business that Innovates Another Century Club company is Bartell Drugs, a chain of 58 locally owned drug stores operating in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. Operated by the same family for more than 120 years, Bartell carved an important niche in the marketplace and the community "“ a chain of pharmacies that sold products at discount prices. Bartell Drugs built its business on innovation and value, adding such features as in-store soda fountains, film developing and even a candy factory, all in an effort to meet changing customer needs and serve market demands. Only three CEOs have guided the business over the years "” all of them Bartells. Bartell Drugs continues to hold its own in an increasingly crowded marketplace, largely due to its superior customer service, affordable prices and deep commitment to being an active member of the community. Ben Bridge Jeweler: A Company that Cares  Among the oldest and largest jewelry store chains in the nation, Ben Bridge Jeweler was founded in Seattle in 1912 by watchmaker Sam Silverman. After marrying Silverman's daughter Sally in 1922, Ben Bridge joined the firm as a partner and turned the store in to a full-line jewelry store. When his father-in-law moved to California in 1927, Ben purchased Sam's interest and renamed the store Ben Bridge Jeweler. Family-run for five generations, today the company is managed by the founder's great-grandchildren. In 2012 the American Gem Society awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award to the Bridge family in honor of the company's significant contributions to the jewelry industry. "Our success is in direct proportion to the services we perform for our customers and our community," says Marc Bridge, vice president of marketing. "We care deeply about people and the communities in which we live and work. The culture of Washington has affected the culture of the company.  We have deep roots here, and have built long-term relationships with our customers and employees."


Jessica Walker Boehm is a journalism graduate of Belmont University and has been a regular contributor to Livability.com since 2010.