Charles “Chuck” Williams, the founder of Williams-Sonoma, is often called a pioneer of the American kitchen. Today, we’re celebrating his 99th birthday with a tribute to our absolute favorite cook, chef and founder.
PS: Don’t forget to check out our giveaways all day long, to celebrate Chuck’s birthday!
Although he always had a love and affinity for food and cooking, this love turned into a more defined passion after Williams’ first visited Europe in 1953. He immediately fell in love with Paris, and was greatly inspired by the French cooking culture — wandering around the city’s tiny cooking shops helped stoke the fire that created a true culinary destination.
“I never really got over that trip,” Chuck says. “And all these years later, I know that every trip I have ever taken … has been an extension of that first trip to Paris in 1953.”
After moving to Sonoma, California, Chuck met a group of friends that all shared a deep love for cooking — beyond the typical processed or no-prep foods that were common in post-war America. After purchasing an old hardware store in downtown Sonoma, he turned part of it into a little shop of his own, and added some kitchen and cooking tools to the stock. “That was the real beginning of the business,” he says. “A kind of accident.”
He kept the store’s name simple: Williams-Sonoma. “If you stop to think about it, it wasn’t a good choice,” he says. “A lot of people did have trouble getting it right. Some called it Sonoma-Williams, and even more call it William Sonoma and think my name is Bill Sonoma.”
The now iconic pineapple logo was developed by a local artist in Sonoma, which he had seen atop the gateposts of grand houses and interpreted as a symbol of hospitality.
Chuck’s business, which set a standard for customer service, took off and helped fuel a revolution in American cooking and entertaining that continues today.
Today, Williams-Sonoma, Inc. is a multi-channel specialty retailer of high quality products for the home that now includes Williams-Sonoma, the Pottery Barn brands (Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen), West Elm, Mark & Graham and Rejuvenation.