A woman who rose from the sales floor to become a top executive for the Nordstrom department store chain has left her position and begun "an extended personal leave of absence," a company spokeswoman said Friday.
Betsy Sanders, an 18-year Nordstrom employee, has stepped down as vice president and general manager of the burgeoning chain's Southern California stores.
Neither Sanders nor other Nordstrom officials would discuss the departure.
Sanders started as a sales clerk in Seattle and later helped oversee the company's first venture into the crowded Southern California department store market, the Nordstrom store that opened in 1978 at the glitzy South Coast Plaza.
Most recently, Sanders was responsible for 13 Nordstrom stores spread across the Southland, as well as four Nordstrom Rack close-out centers, said company spokeswoman Lucy Hamilton.
Under Sanders' stewardship, local shoppers reveled in the Nordstrom brand of upscale retailing: a high degree of personal service and a liberal return policy.
"We were scared of the tremendous competition down here," Sanders said in a 1984 interview. "Given the incredible number of stores already fighting for shoppers, we honestly worried if we could make it."
The chain not only survived, but prospered as the fastest-growing specialty department store chain in the 1980s. Among the unique features were unisex diaper changing tables installed in both the men's and women's restrooms in the Santa Ana store.
Sanders has been deeply involved in local philanthropic activities. She was chairwoman of the United Way of Orange County drive, served on the directors' executive committee of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, helped handicapped Boy Scouts and was a former board director for the Cal State University Foundation.
She has been feted by the YWCA and the Constitutional Rights Foundation in Los Angeles for her charity work.