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Sonoma County residents have been asking for a Nordstrom outpost for 20 years, and on Friday, they finally got one.

About 300 people waited outside Coddingtown Mall in the drizzly and cold Santa Rosa morning for the 31,000-square-foot Nordstrom Rack to open its doors to the public for the first time, most of them holding coffee cups distributed by caterers.

And while they were caught up in the party atmosphere created by the Nordstrom Rack staff, there was an underlying current, too — a sense of finally.

For many, the arrival of the Nordstrom brand at Coddingtown signaled a shift in a Sonoma County retail market that has long sent clients interested in designer labels south on Highway 101 to Marin or San Francisco.

“For any decent designer store, we have to go out of the area,” said Erikka Newton, 29, of Santa Rosa. “It’s just nice having it here.”

Nordstrom Rack offers brands that would be familiar to many high-end shoppers, but at discounted prices. Much of the merchandise the store carries is culled from the clearance sections of Nordstrom or Nordstrom.com.

Stephanie Delich, the 30-year-old Penngrove resident who won $1,000 in Nordstrom Rack credit during a raffle the store held for earlybirds, had never stepped foot in a Nordstrom or Nordstrom Rack until Friday. She avoids heading into San Francisco at all costs, so has never visited the outposts there, she said. Too many people, too much traffic.

“I was really excited to see it,” said Delich, an Empire College paralegal student. “As soon as they said they were opening it, I said we’re going to the grand opening.”

Some shoppers lined up as early as 6 a.m. — a full three hours before the 9 a.m. opening. Shoppers high-fived staffers when they finally crossed the threshold, dancing to “Shout” as it blared through a DJ’s speakers.

Neighboring retailers at the mall, which is owned by Codding Enterprises and Simon Property Group, hope the arrival of Nordstrom will inject new energy into the shopping center.

“I think it’s going to drive a lot of traffic,” said Nicole Burke, manager of the Motherhood Maternity store at Coddingtown. “I saw the line outside the store, and I thought, whoa.”

Sabrina Wood, another manager at Motherhood Maternity, said there are days when she doesn’t see anyone walk by her storefront for hours. While anchors like Whole Foods Market and Target are destination stores, it doesn’t always result in shoppers walking through the rest of the mall, she said.

“This mall doesn’t really get a lot of traffic right now, based on the fact that there are a lot of spaces available,” she said. “What we have so far is really good, but what we have are destination stores.”

Nordstrom Rack, she hopes, will draw a different kind of customer. Lara Vogel, manager of Icing by Claire’s, was less optimistic.

“I don’t think I’ll get any residual business,” she said. “I think you have this particular shopper who’s going to be going to Nordstrom (Rack), and if they’re going to entertain any other shop in this mall, it’s going to be the Macy’s. I don’t see how it’s going to benefit me, but I hope it does.”

Jimmy Scales, Coddingtown’s director of marketing and business development, said the arrival of Nordstrom Rack was all about delivering on what the community was asking for.

“I think it’s a little bit of a shot in the arm for the center,” he said. “People know the brand. It helps draw some people in the county that haven’t been (to Coddingtown) in a few years. ... It brings a little bit of a different shopper.”

That type of shopper, he said, is mostly women in their 20s and 30s.

“It’s filling in the blanks,” he said.

Over the past six years, the 54-year-old mall has completed a renovation and added Whole Foods Market, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and a string of restaurants. In the coming years, Coddingtown will seek to add more apparel stores. The mall recently signed a lease with Unleashed by Petco, which is expected to open in 2017 or early 2018.

“We want people to think of us as not just a place to buy one item, but to come and stay,” Scales said.

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or christi.warren@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.

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