Stan Selden, captain of family furniture business and Tacoma waterfront, dies at 84

Stan Selden
Stan Selden Staff file, 2010

Stanley Selden had a head for business, and a heart for Tacoma and its historic waterfront.

The Tacoma native, civic leader and retired president and CEO of Selden’s Designer Home Furnishings died Sunday at home, with family by his side. He was 84.

Stan’s son Scott, the company’s current president and CEO, said his dad stayed positive and courageous throughout his battle with cancer, which was diagnosed in late May.

Selden’s was founded as a floor coverings company in 1940 by Stan’s father Sydney. Stan became the second-generation leader of the firm in 1971, a role he held until 2002.

Today, the company is under the guidance of a third and fourth generation of Seldens, including Scott, his sister Loni Cross, and Cross’ son Jacob.

But even in retirement, Stan maintained his interest in the family business.

“He was my adviser and confidant,” Scott Selden said. “His business acumen was strong right up until the day he passed.”

Selden’s was one of the last big retailers to leave downtown Tacoma, when it moved to Fife around 1990. The move gave the company a high-visibility location along Interstate 5.

Today, there’s also a Selden’s in downtown Bellevue. Another Selden’s store in Olympia retains the Selden name but is owned by a different family.

Stan Selden leaves behind a legacy of hard work and community service.

His list of awards and accolades is long, including his role as emeritus member of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County and recognition by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber with a New Tacoma award.

He served on the boards of the Tacoma Better Business Bureau, the Youth Maritime Foundation and Campfire.

He perhaps was best known for his promotion of Tacoma’s waterfront as a symbol of the city he loved.

I was drawing pictures of square riggers at age 6 in elementary school

Stan Selden

“I was drawing pictures of square riggers at age 6 in elementary school in Parkland,” he once told an interviewer for the Tacoma Waterfront Association, an organization he helped found.

He worked with the Foss Waterway Seaport and played a role in bringing several tall ships festivals to Tacoma.

“He led by example,” said Richard Hildahl, a retired business analyst, who worked with Selden several years ago to return a historic luxury yacht to Tacoma. “He would embarrass you by virtue of all the things he would get done in a short period of time.”

Selden helped organize the upcoming Festival of Sail, which will bring as many as 15 of the world’s largest sailing ships to Tacoma in 2017.

“He had a deep passion to do something like this for Tacoma again,” said Craig Samborski, the Minnesota-based producer for the 2017 Tacoma event. “Stan was passionate about it. It’s difficult not to get infected with that.”

Wesley Wenhardt, executive director of the Foss Waterway Seaport, said he recently spoke with Selden about plans for the future.

“I just talked to him Saturday, and he was talking about the next meeting coming up,” Wenhardt said. “He was a personal and professional inspiration to me and the whole Seaport family.”

Stan was a great advocate, and he just loved Tacoma

Jeff Lyon, businessman

Selden’s passions were many, and rooted in his hometown.

He was born in Tacoma, graduated from Clover Park High School in Lakewood and from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. He served two years in the U.S. Coast Guard before returning home to join the family business.

“Stan was a great advocate, and he just loved Tacoma,” said Jeff Lyon, CEO of commercial real estate firm Kidder Mathews, who worked with Selden as part of the Economic Development Board.

“He was always positive, saying, ‘We’ve got a great community here. Let’s go out and promote it.’ ” Lyon said.

“Stan was involved with the EDB for more than a decade, and his dedication to Tacoma was incomparable,” said Bruce Kendall, president and CEO of the board. “His goal always was to elevate the city he loved.”

Selden is survived by his wife, Joanne, and his four children with former wife Jacqueline: Lori Lennox, Loni Cross, Sandi Lamrouex and Scott Selden.

In his retirement, Selden and wife Joanne traveled the world.

In a message to Selden’s staff, his family described his journeys, which included buying handmade items from street vendors in Tehran and tracing the path of the ancient Silk Road trade routes.

He also piloted his boat “to the glaciers of Alaska to chip off a piece of ice for an evening cocktail.”

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635, @DebbieCafazzo

Services planned

The family of Stanley Selden will hold a private graveside service for him and plan a celebration of life for his family and friends at the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum. Time and date will be announced later.