In 1887, at the age of 16, like many other Swedes in the late 19th century, John W. Nordstrom immigrated to the United States in search of opportunity. He was born in the village of Alvik, close to the city of Luleå in Northern Sweden. His name at birth was Johan Nordström, Swedish pronunciation: [juːhan nuːr(d)strœm], which he later anglicized to John Nordstrom. After landing in New York, he first began working in Michigan. As he moved across the country, he worked a series of menial jobs. He was able to save enough money to purchase a 20-acre (81,000 m2) potato farm in Arlington, Washington, near Seattle. In 1897, he joined the Klondike Gold Rush in Canada's Yukon Territory, leaving Seattle. After two years of prospecting, he finally struck gold, but sold his disputed claim for $13,000. Returning to Seattle with his newfound wealth, he married Hilda Carlson and looked for a business venture, finally settling on a shoe store that opened in 1901, called Wallin & Nordstrom. Carl F. Wallin, the co-founder of the store, was the owner of the adjacent shoe repair shop. John and Hilda had five children, three of whom would follow him into the family business, Everett W. (1903), Elmer J. (1904) and Lloyd N. Nordstrom. By the time Wallin & Nordstrom opened their second store in Seattle in 1923, Elmer, a recent graduate of the University of Washington, had enough experience to be placed in charge of its opening.