Chuck Williams, founder of Williams-Sonoma who in 1956 was simply a carpenter-gourmet who turned a hardware store into a French cookware shop, died on Saturday of natural causes, according to the company.
Laura Alber, president of Williams-Sonoma, said, "Chuck taught us that when we open our doors to a customer, we welcome a friend into our home. He had impeccable taste, unique insight for selecting the right products at the right time, and the highest standard of customer service. We will miss him dearly."
The opening of his first shop in 1956 occurred at a time during which, “Americans were beginning to think about food as more than sustenance,” according to The New York Times. People looked to James Beard’s books and Julia Child’s television shows for inspiration. However, at the time the tools and condiments required to make such dishes were nowhere to be found. Child told Newsweek in 1997, “In the early days of my show, the home chef couldn't buy any of the items I used for cooking; you had to buy them the next time you went to France. Chuck changed all that,” the Los Angeles Times quotes.
Williams-Sonoma became a retail home furnishings and mail-order giant, boasting more than 600 stores and $4.7 billion in net revenue and transforming the home and professional kitchens of America. Though Williams sold the company in 1978 to W. Howard Lester, he remained closely involved.
Williams-Sonoma brand president Janet Hayes said, "With his impeccable taste and unique talent for selecting the right products at the right time, he built a powerful brand that inspired a cultural revolution around food and had immeasurable impact on home and family life around the world."