In Memoriam: Charles E. “Chuck” Williams, Founder of Williams-Sonoma

In Memoriam: Charles E. “Chuck” Williams, Founder of Williams-Sonoma

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Charles E. “Chuck” Williams, industry icon and Founder and Director of Williams-Sonoma, Inc., has passed away at the age of 100 years old.

Mr. Williams leaves behind an incredible, long-lasting legacy that has helped shape the course of the specialty food industry. His personal love of cooking and entertaining sparked a national interest in culinary exploration, the company stated. After opening his first Williams-Sonoma store in 1956 in Sonoma, California and launching a series of cookbooks and a catalog, the brand became a multi-billion dollar venture that is still very well known and cherished today.

Charles E. "Chuck" Williams in his San Francisco office, circa 2012

“Chuck taught us that when we open our doors to a customer, we welcome a friend into our home,” Laura Alber, President and CEO of Williams-Sonoma, Inc., said in a company announcement. “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.”

Chuck Williams, in 1953, stands in the downtown Sonoma hardware shop he converted into the first Williams-Sonoma store.

Mr. Williams is said to have introduced America to French kitchen products, such as the soufflé dish, the Madeleine mold, the sauté pan, and balsamic vinegar. He once told Fortune in 2003, “I don’t think of us as a huge company, though, but as one store. I still recommend what appeals to me, and what I think represents good design. I think people will always respond to that.”

Throughout his career, Mr. Williams was honored with a number of industry awards, including being inducted into the Halls of Fame for both the Culinary Institute of America and the Direct Marketing Association. He was also known for being a generous philanthropist, providing support to the Culinary Institute of America, California Pacific Medical Center, Food Runners, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and the Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma County.

His contributions, passion, knowledge, and compassion for the industry will always be remembered.

In lieu of flowers, Williams-Sonoma, Inc. asks that donations be made in Mr. Williams name to Food Runners and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

DeliMarket News would like to offer Mr. Williams’ family and friends our sincerest condolences during this difficult time.

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