In 1972, the best-known chef in America was Julia Child (who had displaced Chef Boyardee), and the American public’s appetite for better food was quickly followed by an appetite for better cooking equipment, specifically the Cuisinart.
You could buy one at a store in the Pike Place Market called Sur La Table. (They cost $150 apiece, over $1,000 in today’s money.) The owner, Shirley Collins, told an interviewer that she would sell several at a time to wealthy customers in chauffeured limousines.
Collins ran the store until 1995, when she sold to the Behnke family, longtime supporters of the local arts community, who added new locations as well as cooking classes, and expanded into online catalog sales.
While it remained headquartered in Seattle, Sur La Table was taken over by Investcorp in 2011. Who dat? It’s an offshore holding company, originally based in Bahrain, that describes itself as “a leading provider and manager of alternative investment products.” Price was about $150 million.
Well, for all that, according to Bloomberg News, Sur La Table is about to file for bankruptcy. Is it because the store’s been closed since March? Is it because the store depended on hands-on cooking classes? Or is it because the market for $400 dutch ovens has simply dried up? Investcorp ain’t talking.