FLIGHT DEPT OF THE YEAR

Williams-Sonoma sells to the kitchen connoisseur

International growth in the houseware stores and catalog markets with use of a Bombardier Global 5000.


Mx Manager Valentin Florea

Mx Mgr Valentin Florea assures that "his" Global 5000 is always ready to fly, no matter when or where the W-S staff needs to travel.

Valentin Florea made his way to Williams-Sonoma via a slightly different route than the pilots. Born in Bucharest, Romania, "Vali" came to the US on a student exchange program in 1993 for a planned 18-month visit. After experiencing the country by driving through 40 of the 50 states, he says, "This was the start of my life so I stayed in America."

His passion and excitement for the world of aviation shine through. "I've always loved cars and airplanes but with airplanes there is no limit to what you can do," he proclaims.

By 1999, he had made his way to California and went to A&P school at the College of San Mateo. He worked part-time for TWA as a ramp employee "just to be around aviation." He soon ventured into the corporate world with Signature Aviation.

This is where Vali met Nathan Schumacher, then mx manager of Williams-Sonoma, Inc. Over time, Schumacher would call Vali for side work and they developed a friendship. When Vali was laid off from Signature in 2004, Schumacher brought him on with Williams-Sonoma, Inc in what would become a full-time position by 2006.

When Schumacher left the company in 2014, Vali took over. As a 1-man mx crew, he keeps quite busy but loves the challenge. His organization, attention to detail, and impeccable record-keeping is outstanding. "I try to make this airplane available whenever they need it," he states. The company schedule's and flight policies help here, too, as Vali is able to accurately plan mx and inspections when the aircraft isn't in use around the holidays.

While most work is done at their home base in Oakland, Vali's infectious personality has created relationships around the world that he taps into when necessary to keep "his" plane flying. Vali explains, "Williams-Sonoma has empowered me to manage this asset and I run it like it's my own bank account. I love what I do."

Inflight Services Lead Caroline Gillcrist

Caroline Gillcrist tackles the demanding challenges of global inflight services for a hard-working executive team.

The 5th and final member of the department is Caroline Gillcrist, lead of inflight Services. Being the daughter of an airline pilot and a private pilot herself, aviation seemed a natural choice for Gillcrist.

After receiving her psychology degree from Cal State, she moved to Las Vegas for work as a flight attendant. While on contract attendant jobs, Gillcrist was recommended to Memmott and in 2014 she joined Williams-Sonoma, Inc. Although she is the only full-time attendant, on longer trips they will supplement with contract attendants when needed.

Familiar themes come up when Gillcrist is asked what she enjoys most about her job. "We all work as a team, it's like a family. Laura (Alber) is one of the best people I've flown for. She's very conscientious, not demanding. And the schedule really can't be beaten, especially compared to other corporate work I've done."

Future

While Williams-Sonoma, Inc's Global 5000 has served them well, Memmott and his crew recognize that they may be ready for something new. Originally outfitted as a personal aircraft for Howard Lester, it has been adapted for use as a corporate conveyance, which is not ideal. "This is a great aircraft and we love it but it may not be the best one for us for the long term. We could use more range and a different layout. We have not made up our minds but we are looking at all options," Memmott explains.

With a single aircraft and their current flight schedules, Memmott feels that their staffing works well. "We try to operate smart and lean." However, if an additional plane is added to the fleet, they will certainly add more personnel. However, whether it's new aircraft or the number of pilots, one thing is clear, the flight department will be pivotal in the decision making. "Laura trusts our crew and we work very closely to determine our direction," Memmott says.

Conclusion

It was 61 years ago that an ambitious young man with an affinity for the meticulous preparation of food and a desire to share his enthusiasm with the world, opened what would become the premier kitchen supply store for everyone from top chefs to housewives.

Before Chuck Williams passed away in 2015, his quaint storefront in Sonoma had evolved from selling French cookware into an entire home outfitting and decorating experience. To accomplish this, Howard Lester and his team would embark on global travel not possible without the benefit of business aviation. For over 30 years, Williams-Sonoma, Inc has utilized aircraft as a utensil to advance their operations, and the result has been international growth and leadership in the housewares and catalog markets they have established.

As the company looks to even further expansion, the experienced personnel and capable aircraft of the Williams-Sonoma flight department will be ready for whatever the future holds.

Brent Bundy has been a police officer with the Phoenix Police Dept for 26 years.
He has served in the PHX Air Support Unit for 16 years and is a helicopter rescue pilot with nearly 4000 hours of flight time. Bundy currently flies Airbus AS350B3s for the helicopter side of Phoenix PD's air unit and Cessna 172, 182s and 210s for the fixed-wing side.


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