Williams-Sonoma, the $3 billion company selling fancy cookware and gourmet foods, wants to come home. The very first of the 268 stores in the nationwide chain was right here in Sonoma, at 601 Broadway. Chuck Williams opened in 1956, incorporating the name of the town into that of his new business. Needless to say, it took off. (So did the store; it moved to San Francisco two years later.)
Now, the company wants to come back. It’s looking at buying the building and opening a scaled-down Williams-Sonoma in the original location. But like a delicate soufflé in a French porcelain dish ($19), the deal may fall flat. The city is looking at an ordinance that would limit or ban “formula stores,” and the Williams empire exceeds the proposed 250-outlet maximum.
The item is on the City Council agenda tonight, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m. in the Community Meeting Room, 177 First St. W. Watch it live on Sun TV Channel 27.
And no, Williams-Schellville is not an option.
European kitchenware? Professional cooking tools for the home chef? Small-batch gourmet foods that predated the marketing term ‘artisanal’ by 50 years? Williams, now 97, was a true pioneer. Right up there with Julia Child, Robert Mondavi and, like it or not, Martha Stewart in revolutionizing the American kitchen and dinner table.
That the idea to free downtown Sonoma from giant box stores and fast food joints could keep the prodigal son of culinary retail from returning — you could cut the irony with a Wusthof Classic Chefs Knife ($139.95).