William Ashley was launched in Toronto in 1947 by Tillie Abrams, fondly known by staff and customers alike as ‘Mrs. Ashley.’ Though Mrs. Ashley passed away in 2010, her legacy lives on. Today, Jackie Chiesa, the current President, continues the tradition and original vision of William Ashley – to bring the best selection of quality tableware and giftware to the Canadian marketplace, setting the bar as the trendsetters in the industry.
At a young age, Tillie managed her family’s paint and wallpaper business while her parents attended business trips. She always took great interest in the tableware section of the family business, and used her great sense of style to choose the next cutting-edge sensations in dinnerware.
With her passion for quality tableware, Tillie opened her first store in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood in 1947. At the time, it was an unusual act for a woman to own a business, but Tillie had confidence – a true renaissance woman of her time. She was a visionary, and a few years later chose to relocate to Bloor Street long before it was dubbed the Mink Mile, believing it to be Toronto’s up-and-coming shopping district. As she travelled the world to source the best selection of tableware and gifts, the business continued to grow.
Tillie was also revolutionary. On a visit to Chicago, she realized that Canadian stores had not yet tapped into the latest trend in the United States: the Wedding Registry. Thus, in the early 1970s, William Ashley became the very first store in Canada to offer a Wedding Registry Service.
William Ashley has always been at the forefront of the tabletop and giftware industry, and to this day maintains the largest selection of tableware, giftware, and gourmet kitchenware in the world. It is to William Ashley that the industry has always looked, because of our unique heritage and continuing legacy.