President, Segal Family Foundation
Co-founder, Crate & Barrel and Founder, Foodstuffs
Newlyweds Carole and Gordon Segal were washing dishes one night when they had the inspiration that would become Crate & Barrel.
They had traveled to St. Thomas on their honeymoon, and found a Danish home goods store with beautifully designed, modern pieces.
“Gordon was cleaning up and he said, ‘Lots of our friends will want to know where we got these’ and then we started talking about how many young people there were with good taste, but not a lot of money,” says Carole. It was 1961. Six months later, Carole had quit her job as a schoolteacher and they opened their first store in Old Town.
She readily admits that they didn’t have a lot of experience, but they did have taste and Carole found she had a flair for display. Newlyweds of the ‘60s were ready for modern design and shopping in specialty stores. As Crate & Barrel took off, Carole and Gordon’s family also grew. They moved to Wilmette and she stayed home with their three children, but not for long.
“I always loved to cook,” Carole says. She was a dear friend of Julia Child and studied in France at Le Cordon Bleu. But she couldn’t find many of the ingredients she wanted, and kept asking Gordon to bring back extra virgin olive oil and mustards when he traveled to Europe.
“The food revolution was about to start and the market was ready,” she says. So she started her second very successful company, Foodstuffs.
Now, Carole uses her entrepreneurial talent to head her family’s foundation. “We saw we could make a difference in business,” she says. “And we use that same philosophy in our philanthropy.”
They practice “Venture Philanthropy,” funding and mentoring young medical investigators with great ideas who need seed money to get their research started. One of the ideas they funded became an MRI for breast imaging. And last year, their researchers went on to win $15 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health.
“We believe that those who can, should,” says Carole. And indeed they do.