Shut the catalog, come on in

  • KATHY DAY / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, October 18, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News

Crate &Barrel is bringing its mail-order magic to the retail arena


Herald Writer

BELLEVUE — A catalog will come to life when the new Crate &amp Barrel store opens at The Corner at Bellevue Square in November.

For the first time in the Northwest, shoppers will be able to actually touch the housewares and home furnishings that they’ve only been able to see on paper or the Internet.

It’s been 10 years since CEO Gordon Segalc decided the Seattle area was a good place for the store, company spokeswoman Bette Kahn said Tuesday. Finally, with the new 100,000-square-foot center being built at the corner of Bellevue Way and E. Eighth Street, the company has found the right amount of space — 35,000 square feet — in the right location, she said.

And what a space the location is becoming.

With its high-visibility location, two-story glass entry that sends light into its atrium and natural wood and stone to set off the vignettes, the store will be a far cry from the first store that opened in Chicago in 1962.

As Segal — called "one of the 20th century’s retail visionaries" by the president of the National Retail Federation — tells the story, he and his wife, Carole, then a teacher, were washing the Arzberg dishes they had purchased on a trip when the idea hit.

"How come nobody is selling this dinnerware in Chicago?" he asked. "I think there’s a gap in the marketplace. We should open a store."

That led from a one-store, three-person operation in an old elevator factory to 89 stores and more than 5,000 employees. That first store, being joined on Nov. 16 by the Bellevue store and another a week earlier in Philadelphia, started with merchandise displayed in shipping crates and barrels. The focus then was affordable, well-designed gourmet cookware and contemporary housewares.

In 1993, the Segals started the catalog business, which is the only way many people have known the merchandise, Kahn said. They added furniture in 1989 and ventured online in 1999.

This year annual revenues are expected to top $600 million.

Kahn, who has worked her way up the ladder into a management role — as is traditional in Crate &amp Barrel’s structure — said she shopped there before she worked there. One of her favorite purchases was a teak tray — small for $1, large for $2 — that she gave as gifts to her children’s teachers, she said.

Today, the most popular gift purchase is the store’s variety of chip and dip sets, she said. Prices vary, but the current sale catalog shows a white porcelain set embossed with fruit and ivy for $23.95 or a clear glass one for $18.95.

On the housewares floor there will be 10,000 different items, ranging from measuring spoons and vases to desks and chairs.

Kahn describes Crate &amp Barrel shoppers as those seeking "tasteful style." Many are shopping for gifts, taking advantage of the store’s nationwide gift registry that serves not only brides and grooms, but graduates, new home owners and relatives who are always asking "what do you want for Christmas."

Segal, who tried his hand in the restaurant and real estate business before finding his niche, will share his enthusiasm for his business with the Bellevue crew Nov. 15, the day the store hosts a private opening and fund-raiser for the Eastside Domestic Violence Program. Tickets are $30 and available by calling 425-561-8840.

The store opens to the public the next day.

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