Chuck Williams, who founded Williams-Sonoma and brought French cookware to US, dies at 100

SAN FRANCISCO – Chuck Williams, who founded the Williams-Sonoma empire and ushered in an era of aspirational culinary retailing, has died. He was 100.

The home goods retailer said Williams died peacefully of natural causes Saturday.

A two-week trip to Paris in 1953 inspired him to open his first Williams-Sonoma store in Sonoma, California, three years later.

He filled the shop off Sonoma’s town square with pots and pans, white porcelain ovenware, country earthenware and other French cooking tools.

Williams’ first store was such an enormous success that in 1958, he relocated to a 3,000-square foot store in San Francisco, next to the city’s bustling Union Square shopping district.

Julia Child’s landmark 1961 cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” and her cooking show on television sent cooks interested in French cuisine to Williams-Sonoma.