With a simple good idea, a strong work ethic, and a high level of integrity, Gordon Segal (b. 1938) and his wife, Carole, built Crate and Barrel into an internationally renowned home furnishings business. From one store in Chicago to over 100 stores in the United States, Canada and Dubai, Crate and Barrel today employs more than 7,000 associates and supports a vendor network of over 1,100 companies.
In 1962, fresh out of college, the Segals decided the affordable, well-designed tableware they had seen abroad should be available in the United States. They borrowed $17,000 and opened their first store in an abandoned elevator factory in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood. With the arrival of their first shipment from Europe and little cash to spare, the Segals displayed their wares on the crates and barrels in which they arrived, inspiring both the store name and its distinctive concept. Ever an innovator, Crate and Barrel was one of the first companies to buy directly from factories in Europe. Mr. Segal also introduced a new method of visual and product merchandising, first to housewares and then to furniture, which the company added in 1989 with the same meticulous attention to design integrity.
The company is known for creating a unique class and style of furniture that has been emulated throughout the industry and has even been referred to as "the Crate and Barrel look". For decades, it has been ranked as one of the top 20 furniture stores and one of the nation's top three housewares specialty stores.
Mr. Segal focused on slow growth and promoting associates from within. A key component to his success is the example he set for his employees, which inspired his team to work passionately and honestly, while providing the highest level of customer service. Mr. Segal believes continuity builds trust, thus Crate and Barrel is committed to standing behind its product and service.
A former chairman of the National Retail Federation, Mr. Segal was inducted into the World Retail Congress' Hall of Fame in 2007. Other awards include the Retailing Hall of Fame at Texas A & M, the Cooper-Hewitt's Design Patron Award, House Beautiful magazine's Giant of Design designation, and the National Retail Federation Gold Medal Award. He also is scheduled to judge at the NFTE Citywide Business Plan Competition.
His philanthropic projects include the establishment of the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University, where he serves as a trustee. Service on other boards includes The Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago Medical Center, the Chicago History Museum, Window to the World Communications Inc., and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Mr. Segal also has mentored many young entrepreneurs through the years and frequently speaks to students at Northwestern and local high schools.