Chuck Williams, founder of Williams-Sonoma, and a retail and culinary icon who ignited America’s passion for cooking and desire for high quality cookware, passed away on December 5. He was 100.
“Chuck taught us that when we open our doors to a customer, we welcome a friend into our home,” said Laura Alber, president and CEO of Williams-Sonoma, Inc. “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.”
Williams opened the first Williams-Sonoma store in Northern California in the 1950s. As of 2015, the company has grown to more than 250 Williams-Sonoma locations throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. However, his influence continues to be felt throughout all aspects of the gourmet and housewares industry, according to store owners and vendors alike.
“The Williams-Sonoma family has lost a dear friend, an inspiring mentor and our favorite cook. Chuck Williams’ spirit will live on forever in our kitchens— and in our hearts,” Williams-Sonoma posted on its social media pages. The company also released a video memorial and dedicated webpage to celebrate the life of its founder.
Williams never retired from the company he founded, continuing to edit cookbooks, provide input on merchandise strategies, and make public appearances well into his nineties.
Williams-Sonoma recently celebrated Williams’ 100th birthday, with the unveiling of a limited edition Chuck Williams “Signature Collection” of his favorite products along with a new cookbook, “Cooking at Home,” that celebrates his legacy with more than 1,000 recipes from its award-winning cookbook library.
GOURMET INSIDER®, sister publication to HOMEWORLD BUSINESS®, columnist, Frank Brady, recently paid tribute to the housewares icon, a man that he said did everything— from answering the questions of his customers to re-stocking shelves— with an energy that never quit.
“From our first meeting, time has moved on and that 60-year-old shopkeeper has become an icon of retailing, providing the vision and inspiration for not just his company but for all companies that are dedicated to keeping their customers as the most important priority of their business,” Brady said. (Click here to read Brady’s full column.)
Gourmet insiders, such as The Cook’s Warehouse’s Mary Moore, also told Gourmet Insider how much Williams inspired them through his love for the industry.
“His influence and his passion were a gift to the American culinary scene and to all of us involved in the gourmet industry,” noted Moore. (Click here to see what other industry insiders said about Williams and view a slideshow of photos.)