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Talking to the Founders of Crate & Barrel

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Gordon and Carole Segal, married co-founders of Crate & Barrel, examine objects from the museum's collections with curator Peter Liebhold.

Part of our research for the American Enterprise exhibition involves talking to the men and women who have helped define (and redefine) American business in the 20th century. Earlier this year, our team was fortunate enough to sit down with two such entrepreneurs – Gordon and Carole Segal, the married co-founders of Crate & Barrel, one of the largest and most influential furniture and houseware retailers in the world. The Segal interview added much to our understanding of the modern marketplace and will help us develop the exhibition. We were especially pleased to hear the Segals address our themes of opportunity, innovation, and competition from the perspective of their personal experiences.

The Segals were kind enough to let us record the meeting and we want to share some of their stories and insights with you. Click on the hyperlinked text below to hear the Segals tell Crate & Barrel’s story in their own words!

We learned from the Segals that Crate & Barrel began with a very simple idea – one that the couple had, surprisingly, on their honeymoon.

The Segals shared stories and insights with the American Enterprise team during their visit earlier this year.

The Segals also explained that the iconic “Crate & Barrel” look was a product of both design and practical necessity, especially since the couple built their first store on a tight budget in 1962, in an old elevator warehouse.

Although Crate & Barrel is now an international retailer, with more than 170 locations, the Segals always believed quality was a better barometer of success than sheer growth.

The Segals ended our meeting talking about the importance of “everyday beauty.”

 

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    About the Author

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    Peter LiebholdPeter Liebhold is the Chair of the Division of Work and Industry at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. Learn more about the exhibition team.View all posts by Peter Liebhold