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Chuck Williams Dies: Williams-Sonoma Founder Was 100

Image: Chuck Williams Dies: Williams-Sonoma Founder Was 100
In this March 20, 2007 file photo, Chuck Williams stands in front of his original store location in Sonoma, California, during a reception celebrating the company's 50th anniversary. (AP Photo/Press Democrat, Mark Aronoff, File)

By    |   Monday, 07 Dec 2015 01:09 PM

Chuck Williams, the founder of Williams-Sonoma who made it his mission to introduce Americans to French cookware, died early Saturday. He was 100.

Williams-Sonoma, one of the country's biggest e-commerce retailers with a focus on high-quality products for cooking and the home, was started by Williams in 1956 when he began selling French cookware in Sonoma, California, according to the company's website.

Today, Williams-Sonoma operates retail stores in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia, and the United Kingdom, along with franchising its brands to third parties to countries in the Middle East and the Philippines, the website noted.

"He just loved food and entertaining," Mary Risley, a friend of Williams' who formerly ran Tante Marie's Cooking School, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The store put produce out front, but the better stuff was in the back. Chuck and I would meet going through the tomatoes in the back room. We knew all the tricks."

Williams learned visual merchandising while working as a window dresser at I. Magnin & Co. in Los Angeles after high school, according to the newspaper. He served in the Army during World War II as a mechanic and explored the culinary techniques and foods of India and Africa while stationed there.

The business idea for Williams-Sonoma was sparked by a trip with friends to Paris in 1953, where he saw cookware and ate dishes that were unavailable in America.

"Chuck taught us that when we open our doors to a customer, we welcome a friend into our home," Laura Alber, president and chief executive of Williams-Sonoma, Inc., said in a statement.

"He had impeccable taste, unique insight for selecting the right products at the right time, and the highest standard of customer service. Most of all, Chuck was our mentor and our friend. We will miss him dearly," she continued.

Williams-Sonoma published its first catalog, and initially only 10,000 copies, in 1958, according to a company statement. By 1972, Williams-Sonoma expanded to Beverly Hills and then Palo Alto, California. It became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in 1983.

"He had such a great sense of taste," Alice Waters, founder of Berkeley, California's Chez Panisse restaurant, told the San Jose Mercury News in 2005, according to the Los Angeles Times. "He lured people in through the beauty and the art of cooking."

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Chuck Williams, the founder of Williams-Sonoma who made it his mission to introduce Americans to French cookware, died early Saturday. He was 100.
chuck williams, dies, williams sonoma, 100
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2015-09-07
Monday, 07 Dec 2015 01:09 PM
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