February 10, 2011
Gordon and Carole Segal opened the first Crate and Barrel store in 1962. The 1,700 square foot space was located in the Old Town neighborhood, right here in Chicago. The inspiration for the store was the couple’s honeymoon in Europe where they became interested in providing practical yet visually pleasing products to young couples starting their lives together. The Segals sought out small European companies that were not represented in America and negotiated direct purchases from these factories that could be sold to the consumer while avoiding a wholesaler's markup. To this day, a majority of Crate & Barrel's products are direct imports from Europe, although Thai, Mexican and Indian glass and textiles can also be found in their stores. The Segals derived the company name by the materials that they originally used to display items in their Chicago store. They turned over the crates and barrels that the merchandise came in, let the wood excelsior spew out, and stacked up the china and glass. This helped emphasize their strongest selling point, that their products were direct imports.
In 1990, Crate and Barrel opened a new flagship store on Michigan Avenue. The building was designed by John Buenz, whose firm - Solomon, Cordwell, Buenz & Associates - has been designing Crate and Barrel stores since 1976. The exterior of the four-story, 45,000 square foot structure shows a lot of glass and white aluminum, reflecting the clean, modern feel of the interior. For the Winter season, the store uses it’s blue awnings as well as a blue color scheme throughout the store.The entrance to the assymetrical building, which is set off to the right side, has two revolving doors with one push / pull door in the middle for wheelchair and stroller usage.
Window one at Crate & Barrel on Michigan Avenue utiilized odd - numbered pedestals to display kitchen merchandise as well as the art of...