In 1956, one man had a dream and acted upon it decisively. That man was Charles E. “Chuck” Williams, the founder of what we know today as specialty retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc. Back then Chuck Williams dream was to convert the hardware store he purchased in downtown Sonoma, California into a store devoted to French cookware. He did exactly that. An entrepreneur at heart he took the risks necessary to realize a dream and forged ahead.
By 1958, his hardware store was now selling cookware and culinary utensils. With his annual trips to France, Chuck Williams became interested in classic top-quality French cooking equipment. He introduced a collection of this French cookware to the U.S. market through his store, eventually moving the store to San Francisco in
1958. Williams-Sonoma’s first store became the first retailer in the U.S. to carry a collection of this fine French cookware. The second Williams-Sonoma store opened in 1973, in Beverly Hills, California.
Today, the city of San Francisco is still corporate headquarters for this publicly traded company. Williams-Sonoma sells their quality line of products through their retail stores, catalogs, and the internet. They have almost 600 stores, seven mail order catalogs, and six ecommerce websites. They own and operate all their stores, choosing not to go the franchise route at all.
The company operates six retail brands, which cater to providing items for the home. Their six separate brands are Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PB Teen, Williams-Sonoma Home, and West Elm.
Williams-Sonoma Inc. sells casual home furnishings through their Pottery Barns. They sell cooking and entertaining products under Williams-Sonoma, and stylish children’s furnishings through Pottery Barn Kids.
Chuck Williams has personally been involved in publishing more then 200 Williams-Sonoma cookbooks as the General Editor for the company’s Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library series. The Williams-Sonoma stores are well-known for their fine selection of quality cookbooks.
In 2007, Mr. Williams, Founder and Director Emeritus, and the current Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Williams-Sonoma Inc. Howard Lester, received the Inc. Magazine Bernard A. Goldhirsh Lifetime Achievement Award.
Chuck Williams exemplified what it meant to take a risk back in 1956. He is an inspiration to entrepreneurs who choose to risk today, in hopes of greater rewards.