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Williams-Sonoma winds down location at The Marketplace

A high-end national retailer whose Bakersfield debut in 2008 seemed to signal a new sophistication in local shopping has informed customers it will close the store later this month.

The posting of closure signs at the Ming Avenue location of cookware and kitchen goods chain Williams-Sonoma followed word last year that the company planned to phase out a quarter of its physical locations in favor of a greater focus on e-commerce.

Shelves were mostly empty Tuesday inside The Marketplace location. Discounts beckoned customers browsing what merchandise remained.

Bakersfield resident Corrin Teaney said nothing in town quite compares to Williams-Sonoma. She recalled when the store opened 13 years ago.

"It felt like Bakersfield was expanding," she said.

Amy Meyer, another of the chain's fans in Bakersfield, recalled how big a deal the opening was in 2008. Several months after the store opened, hundreds of local residents lined up outside to meet celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis.

Meyer said she will continue shopping at Williams-Sonoma's online sales platform. She said she'll also keep an eye out for the chain's stores when shopping in other cities.

She said she bought a set of steak knives there that she considers family heirlooms.

"Yes, you'll pay a little bit more," she said, "because you know they'll last forever."

In March, when San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma announced it would let many of its leases expire, it also said its fourth-quarter 2020 revenue had beaten expectations by 5 percent, a sign of how much online sales jumped during the pandemic. The company disclosed plans to expand its capacity for direct-to-consumer deliveries by 20 percent to 30 percent.

Williams-Sonoma did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Neither did a representative of The Marketplace's owner.

Williams-Sonoma operates a call center in Shafter and has a store in Fresno. The chain is in the process of opening at least one store in the Los Angeles area.