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Crate & Barrel - The history

On December 7, 1962, Gordon and Carole Segal opened the first Crate & Barrel store in Chicago, Illinois. The inspiration was their honeymoon in the Caribbean, where the Segals saw cheap yet tasteful European household products for sale. They became interested in providing functional yet aesthetically pleasing products to young couples just starting out. They were inspired to start their store in the United States after seeing how European manufacturers offered numerous beautiful and durable products at reasonable prices. The Segals began by recruiting an employee and leasing an abandoned elevator factory on Chicago's Wells Street. They traveled throughout Europe buying directly from ceramicists, glassblowers, and factories making French copper pots and simple white bistro dinnerware.

Until this day, bulks of Crate & Barrel's products are direct imports from Europe, though Thai, Mexican and Indian glass, and textiles can also be obtained in their stores.

The Segals derived the business name from the materials that they initially used to display items in their Chicago store. The Segals intended to call their company "Barrel and Crate," but a friend suggested that they reverse the order of the words. They turned over the crates and barrels that the merchandise came in, let the wood excelsior spew out, and stacked up to the china and glass. That helped emphasize their strongest selling point, which their products were direct imports.