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Chuck Williams original store gets panel’s OK

In 1956, Chuck Williams opened a 628-square-foot store at 603 Broadway and gave it the name Williams-Sonoma. It sold high-end kitchen products for the American home. It was so successful that it closed after two years and moved to San Francisco.

In 2014, the store will reopen. It will still be 628 square feet and it will still sell items that were popular in the original store – items that revolutionized the American kitchen.

The Sonoma Planning Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve the store, making the findings necessary for the required use permit and parking exception. Had the original Williams-Sonoma store been located in the Plaza zone, where formula stores are prohibited, it would have been denied.

“We look at this as a part of our history and we want to tell the story about Chuck’s life,” said Bud Cope, senior vice president of the iconic Williams-Sonoma franchise. “It will not be a formula store. It will be one-tenth the size of our stores today. It will be more of a museum.”

The company purchased the property in 2012 that Williams bought in 1953. It was a hardware store then, according to an article in the Index-Tribune announcing the purchase, but Williams had a new vision for selling kitchenware after visiting Europe with friends that same year. He refurbished the building, creating small spaces for additional businesses while keeping one for himself. He brought in specialized cooking tools for the American cook and high-end pots and pans. He was so successful, his friends convinced him to leave Sonoma and reopen in San Francisco. He did so in 1958.


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