Shopping at Williams-Sonoma in the Historic Town of Sonoma


Browse exclusive cookware and gourmet gadgets, learn new cooking techniques, shop for home furnishings in a home-like setting, and get a glimpse into the past of a store chain that changed how America cooks, eats, and lives in the Williams-Sonoma store in the historic town of Sonoma.

The clean, bright, and carefully restored space at 605 Broadway in downtown Sonoma serves as a living museum, a retail store, and a cooking school.

In addition to displaying (and selling) beautiful patio furniture, the edible garden out back provides a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch.

Sonoma’s Williams-Sonoma store makes a perfect stop for those who love food, cooking, and the good life represented by the Williams-Sonoma brand, blended with a bit of historical perspective.

A carpenter by trade, Chuck Williams bought a hardware store on this spot in 1956, and dedicated a small back corner to selling chef-quality kitchenware he had discovered while traveling in Europe. The kitchenware proved highly popular, and Williams-Sonoma became a thriving cookware store.

In 1958 Williams relocated his store to San Francisco, and there was no longer a Williams-Sonoma in the town of Sonoma. Over the years, Williams-Sonoma introduced its customers to Le Creuset cookware, the Cuisinart food processor, balsamic vinegar, and any number of intriguing chef’s tools.

Today, Williams-Sonoma, Inc. operates 230 retail stores around the world, and its products are available online and through catalogs. In addition to Williams-Sonoma, its brands include Williams-Sonoma Home, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PB Teen, West Elm, Mark and Graham, and Rejuvenation.

The interior of the store with many housewares on the shelves

In 2012, the original Sonoma site came up for sale, and the company snapped it up. Visual and design teams scoured old photos and records. Opened in 2014, the new Sonoma store takes up the entire building, not just the area once occupied by the original hardware store.  An original sign hangs out front, and the black-and-white checkered floor, light fixtures, and other elements recreate as much as possible the look of that first store.

While the retail space here is a bit smaller than in most Williams-Sonoma stores, it offers many extras. On the display shelves, small signs explain the history of the different product lines. Several wall displays hold items from Chuck Williams’ collection of unique kitchenware that he brought back from his travels in Europe. The right side of the store holds the bright and welcoming cooking school area, with a massive marble-topped island, 12 student stools, eight ovens, and two dishwashers.

Walk to the back of the building, where Chuck Williams lived when he opened his first store, and you’ll find a delightful mix of historical photographs and documents, blended with for-sale items from the Williams-Sonoma Home collection. It’s like walking through the catalog, with little extras thrown in, such as the photo of Chuck Williams posing with renowned chef James Beard. Upstairs, be sure to check out the desk in the office area, where you’ll find Chuck Williams’ 1958 calendar marked with the date he opened his San Francisco location.

Like all Williams-Sonoma stores, the Sonoma site hosts a number of culinary events. For example, the free, hour-long Cooking Technique classes include tastings of any prepared dishes; the free Junior Chef Classes offer fun and easy recipes, with plenty of tasting along the way; and the Cookbook Club gives hands-on instructions making recipes from a featured cookbook. The space is also available for community and private events.

Chuck Williams died in December 2015, shortly after his 100th birthday, and the company he founded celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2016. Drop into the Sonoma store, and enjoy a unique retail experience, honoring the decades that this man and his company have devoted to educating and outfitting America’s home cooks.

Historic mission-era buildings on Sonoma Plaza
Historic 19th-century buildings on Sonoma Plaza

Of course, the Williams-Sonoma store is just one of Sonoma’s many intriguing possibilities The heart of town is the historic central plaza, an eight-acre expanse of lush landscaping ringed by boutiques, galleries, tasting rooms, restaurants, coffee shops, and historic sites. Stroll, shop, dine, and explore California history.

Join the locals for mouth-watering breads and pastries or a light lunch at Basque Boulangerie Café; check out the small plates at Oso Sonoma or Tasca Tasca; or feast on innovative country food with a French passion at the girl and the fig. If you’re ready to spend the night, consider a cozy and romantic one-bedroom at Sonoma’s Best Guest Cottages, or go for serious pampering at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Written by Patricia Lynn Henley.

You Might Also Like

Hamel Family Wines, wine tasting and non-alcoholic tasting

With a massive flood of zero-proof beverages recently hitting the market, it’s become fairly easy to find nonalcoholic alternatives on…

handmade pizza at Glen Ellen Star
Trip Itineraries

As a Sonoma local, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing Sonoma County’s finest offerings and generally end up with the…

Movie Prop Car On Display at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Occidental

As you meander the wee 60-yard block of downtown, strolling its wooden sidewalks past 19th-century, false-front buildings, you’ll feel as…

Winter scenery at Luther Burbank in Sebastopol CA
Outdoor Activities

Lush greenery, foggy coastlines, seasonal harvests and unique wildlife sightings – Sonoma County in winter is a place where visitors…

Hot air balloon ride in sonoma county
Sightseeing & Tours

Without a doubt, Wine Country is one of the world’s most breathtaking regions to travel through whether you are looking…

Girls Getaway in Sonoma County
Food & Wine

Winter might be considered the off-season for many of the world’s hottest travel destinations, but a Wine Country visit between…

Wine tasting at sunset.
Trip Itineraries

Fall is a busy time in Sonoma County — from colorful hikes to the perfect pumpkin patch, discover what locals…

Pig at Charlie's Acres
Sustainable Travel

Need a pick-me-up? These nonprofits offer ways to spend time with cute animals — you could even try some goat…

Yellow wildflowers covering field
Outdoor Activities

Springtime offers a brilliant array of things to see and do in Sonoma County, from wildflower walks to cheese crawls!…

Wingo, California, Sonoma County’s Ghost Town, photographed by @chrisjkam
Outdoor Activities

Traveling mindfully to Sonoma County allows us to have experiences that can be savored in a place focused on and…

See What’s Happening

Share your experience using #SonomaCounty or #LifeOpensUp