It appears the economic downturn from COVID-19 may claim a major Seattle-based cookware company. Sur La Table, which started at Pike Place Market 48 years ago, is preparing to file for bankruptcy, according to a recent Bloomberg report, and may be pursuing a sale.
The retail giant — known for its well-curated selection of kitchen tools, ceramics, and home goods, as well as popular cooking classes — has grown to more than 125 stores across the country, but needed to shut much of its operations down temporarily due to coronavirus measures. Sur La Table’s flagship shop at Pike Place has been closed since mid-March.
Despite a rise in home cooking during the pandemic, shops like Sur La Table still face headwinds. Many stay-at-home orders require stores to close, and online sales likely cannot make up for the drop in revenue, especially for a place that also relies on its in-store experiences. In phase one of Washington state’s plan to reopen the economy, some retail shops can reopen for curbside pickup, but it’s unclear if Sur La Table will plan on doing so, especially given the reported pending bankruptcy. Competitor Williams-Sonoma has reopened some of its locations, but has also extended temporary closures in many spots that still have retail restrictions in place across the US and Canada.
It has been a strong run for Sur La Table to this point. The shop began as a small, independent business founded by Shirley Collins, a South Texas native, Pike Place advocate, entrepreneur, and dedicated home cook, who saw there was a lack of quality kitchenware for sale in Seattle at the time. Its flagship at the Market has been a shopping destination for decades, with famed chefs such as Jacques Pepin and Julia Child doing in-store demonstrations over the years.
Collins sold the store in 1995, and in 2011, a private firm called Investcorp (known for investing in high-end brands like Gucci and Tiffany & Co) bought it for $146 million. Just last year, the company seemed to be expanding its reach, opening up a 5,000-square foot store in Jacksonville, Florida.
When reached, a rep for Sur La Table would not comment on the Bloomberg report.