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Sur La Table Files for Bankruptcy, But Pike Place Store Will Remain Open for Now

COVID-19 impacts led to the company’s recent restructuring, although the problems go back further

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The view of the outside of Sur La Table at Pike Place Market
Sur La Table’s Pike Place location has been around since the early 70s.
Moment Editorial/Getty Images

Cookware company Sur La Table, which started at Pike Place Market 48 years ago and houses its headquarters in Seattle, officially filed for bankruptcy Wednesday. As a result, the chain will close more than 50 stores nationwide, but the Pike Place flagship shop will be spared, a rep for the company confirms to Eater Seattle. Business Insider also published a list of pending closures, and it does not include any stores in Washington.

The bankruptcy protection had been rumored since early May, as the retail giant — known for its well-curated selection of kitchen tools, ceramics, and home goods — faced daunting economic challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a rise in home cooking and online sales in recent months, Sur La Table saw a steep drop in revenue, and cut 20 percent of its workforce last month, in part since many of its popular cooking classes and events had to be paused due to coronavirus measures.

But in a written declaration for the bankruptcy filing, CEO Jason Goldberger revealed that the retailer’s economic outlook looked bad even pre-pandemic, and the company sought a buyer in November 2019. Among the factors Goldberger cited in the filing were “a shifting of sales from traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to online retailers” and “changing consumer preferences.”

At its peak, Sur La Table had grown to more than 125 stores across the country, and only recently reopened some of them, including the Pike Place shop. According to the Business Insider report, the chain will continue to operate “high-performing stores” and plans to sell 70 of its locations to a New York-based private equity firm.

Even if the future looks uncertain for Sur La Table, the fact that the Pike Place location will remain open is somewhat of a silver lining, since it holds a special place in Seattle’s heart. In the early 70s, the company 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.

Goldberger said in a statement Wednesday that the latest pending sale “will result in a revitalized Sur La Table, positioned to thrive in a post COVID-19 retail environment.”

UPDATED, July 10, 2020, 2:09 p.m.: This article was updated with further details from the bankruptcy filing, shedding light on Sur La Table’s pre-coronavirus issues.

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