One might have thought it was the world premiere of a major motion picture as hundreds of people converged on Montana Avenue for the grand opening of a new Williams-Sonoma store, considered to be one of the nation’s premiere shops for professional quality cookware and gourmet foods. Chuck Williams, 93, founder of this famous nationwide chain which now numbers 260 stores, was on hand to meet and greet customers who came in from all over Los Angeles, including California’s First Lady Maria Shriver and her brother Bobby.
Williams, a former gourmet cook, discovered French cooking equipment, which he said, “was far superior to the thin products available in the U.S.,” while vacationing in Paris in 1953, and eventually his Sonoma County hardware store, which he opened in 1956, morphed into a high-end cooking equipment shop. Eventually, to accommodate the growing list of customers, he moved his store to the center of San Francisco’s shopping district.
This high-energy gentleman, who resides in San Francisco, still goes to work every day, and participates in the operation of this multi-billion-dollar business, which also includes the Pottery Barn chain. Williams has been honored for his contributions to the cooking industry, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and being inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Culinary Institute of America.
General Manager Louis Schillace said, “We are delighted to be in Santa Monica. The community has been overwhelmingly gracious in welcoming us here. The first weekend of business was fantastic – much more than we expected, especially in view of the economy, and we are grateful to the community for its support.”