Williams-Sonoma has returned to the place where it all began back in 1956, when Chuck Williams—now celebrating his 99th birthday—purchased a small Sonoma hardware shop and converted into a store for passionate home cooks. A longtime fan and dedicated shopper of the brand, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab just toured the original location which is a combination of a landmark store and cooking school all under one roof.
The store captures the character of the location’s earlier era by showcasing many of Chuck’s iconic finds, from Le Creuset cookware to Apilco porcelain dinnerware. Chuck introduced cooking and serving equipment that he found in his travels to France — tools that had never before been available to home cooks. The items caught on, and he became known for his passion for personal service, viewing his customers as friends. His love of the first store’s location is reflected in the name of our company.
The new location showcases many of the original design details, including floor tiles and signature shelving, that served as inspiration for the look of early Williams-Sonoma stores. Fixtures and materials were salvaged and incorporated to maintain the integrity of the architecture.
An open-air edible garden behind the store features a communal table, as well as edible herbs and seasonal produce for the onsite culinary team to use in demonstrations and hands-on cooking classes. Chuck’s former residence, located adjacent to the store, has been transformed into a design center—our favorite part of the store—outfitted with furnishings and decor from the Williams-Sonoma Home collection.
An in-store cooking school carries on Chuck’s commitment not just to equip but to educate the home cook. The school allows for hands-on instruction of up to 12 students — from complete beginners to advanced cooks — and classes will teach students how to master techniques and re-create dishes in their own homes. In addition to classes, the school will also host a Junior Chef program, Cookbook Clubs, Artisan’s Markets and a Chef Series led by local chefs and culinary experts. The staff can also create customized, private classes for a more personalized cooking experience.
We loved getting a Williams Sonoma Home styled bedroom and office sneak peek too. Chuck’s personal calendar still sits on the desk to proudly mark the official opening of his first store in San Francisco, 576 Sutter Street, on May 26, 1958. Although it’s been over 50 years, we’re looking forward to the next 50 for more of his iconic style and timeless design.