German-born engineer, Heida Thurlow incorporates Lentrade Inc. in Houston, Texas on October 22, 1971. After graduating as the only female in her class Heida unexpectedly fell in love and moved to Houston, TX. She tries for a job in the busy Oil Industry, but soon discovers no one was interested in hiring a female engineer. Passionate about cooking, Heida chooses to start a kitchenware company and names it after her own name of Lehnert. Her first housewares items are beautiful pottery dishes and clay bakers. Hear Heida's Stories
The company's first actual cookware products are enamel on carbon steel from Germany - one dubbed the "Steam-a-Fry" and the other being a covered roaster with innovative off-set handles in 2 sizes. Both prove to be smashing successes and the Roaster remained on the market for over 45 years.
Heida introduces this new line of German-made Enameled cookware under the brand name of Chantal by Lentrade, Inc in vibrant Cobalt Blue.
She attends the International Housewares Show in Chicago in an effort to find retailers, but no one stops at her Booth. That night Heida goes to the magnificent mile of Michigan Avenue and buys a stylish blue hat that would match the cookware she has on display. As fate would have it the next day Heida and her hat catch the attention of Chuck Williams, founder of Williams-Sonoma. Chuck loves the look of the cookware and orders it for all of his stores. This is the beginning of a beautiful working relationship between Heida & Chuck, which puts Chantal on the map.
Heida's company grows steadily in the early 80's. Most "notably" due to the introduction of her first stovetop Teakettle which features an innovative Hohner Harmonica whistle which hits the notes E flat and E as the water comes to a boil. This kettle is among the first items Heida introduced in a variety of fashionable colors and is the most expensive teakettle on the market at that time. Adding strong, solid colors to kitchenware products is rarely done then, but the trend catches on quickly. This teakettle is still in the assortment and today is referred to as simply the "Classic" kettle. It becomes an icon of stovetop teakettle design and it is copied by countless competitors over the years. Hear Heida's Stories
Always an admirer of Coco Chanel, Heida likens the name of her brand after her icon. Chanel's design concept of" simplicity is the playbook of elegant fashion" is Heida's inspiration for "timeless product design" for Chantal. Heida is dubbed the "Leading Lady of Porcelain on Steel". She is the first woman to establish and run a cookware company in the United States.
This is the year that Heida's company becomes more structured with a staff and division of responsibilities. Several of these original employees are still with Chantal today.
Business boomed for Chantal in the late 80's, but Heida faces her greatest challenge yet when she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Months of treatments while continuing to work, travel to factories, and meet with customers along with sheer determination enables her to beat the cancer.
Chantal hires a Hollywood "Agent" to place products in Films and TV shows. Most notably, our enameled cookware and teakettles are part of some of the most well recognized programs of the 90s, including Friends, Seinfeld and the Golden Girls.
Our red 9 quart stockpot even helps Kevin McCallister ward off the Sticky Bandits in the original Home Alone movie.
This era also sees a lot of growth to the Chantal product catalog. The original Enamel cookware is repositioned to highlight its versatility and easy clean abilities. A new "Cook & Serve" line is introduced in addition to fondues, chafing dishes & warming stands.
All of these items prove to be successful behind the concept that cooking pans could be both functional in the kitchen but also elegant enough to have a place at the table. This idea is the origin of the tag line that Chantal still uses today - Performs. Beautifully.
Chantal is selected to be a case study conducted by Harvard University's Business School. They specifically examine different strategy's that entreprenurial business leaders had developed to overcome market adversity and successfully move their business toward future growth. Heida's insight is key to this study and this case is used as a teaching tool for a number of years.
Chantal becomes one of the first Kitchenware and Housewares vendors to start selling through a fledgling e-commerce platform called Amazon. You may have heard of it! All Chantal products are still found on Amazon today.
Chantal sells its 1 millionth Teakettle! Amazingly over that time period the return/defective rate is less than 2%. Hear Heida's Stories
While Houston endures Hurricane Rita this year, Heida marries the love of her life, Wayne Smithers, on top of a mountain in Park City, Utah. No one from Houston makes it to the wedding as all airports are closed.
Chantal moves to a brand new headquarters designed specifically for its needs. The building is poised for future growth with over 50,000 sq feet of warehouse space. It features a custom entrance brandished with large enamel panels created and installed by our German factory in signature Chantal Cobalt Blue. An oversized teakettle logo that can be seen from the highway and, of course, the building has a private garden for meditation and relaxation.
With a connection from Heida's daughter, Natasha, this year also brings about a meaningful partnership between Heida and heralded product designer, Eva Zeisel. Together they combined their expertise to develop a stunning line of products that was sold under the Chantal brand for 6 years until Ms. Zeisel passed away in 2011 at the age of 105.
Heida's personal encounter with breast cancer inspires her to want to raise funds for cancer research. She develops an extensive group of products in conjunction with the LiveStrong Foundation and a portion of all proceeds are contributed to this cause.
Chantal turns 40 years old! To commemorate this achievement the "Anniversary" teakettle is introduced which would become the best selling kettle over the next 10 years.
Other momentous items from this era include the introduction of Chantal's first electric kettle and amazingly, Chantal is awarded a patent on an "innovative" pie dish!
Heida watches her beloved husband, Wayne, pass away after battling Alzheimer's disease. It remains an especially difficult time in her life and the life of Chantal as Wayne was close with many of the company's staff and all miss him greatly.
Accustomed to philanthropy, Chantal launches the "Memory Collection" to raise funds for Alzheimer's research. This consists of a grouping of products in purple - the official color of Alzheimer awareness.
Heida is a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entreneur of the Year award for the Gulf Coast Territory. She is honored at a gala and shares the stage with local officials and business leaders.
Hurricane Harvey descends upon Houston in late August. While Chantal's offices and warehouse are spared, Heida's home is a complete loss, at times having up to six feet of flood waters rushing through the entire first floor. During the initial onslaught Heida escapes to her roof accompanied by her neighbors and eventually is rescued by the National Guard in a Black Hawk Helicopter. This experience leads Heida to look for ways to aid her local community by raising funds for hurricane relief and even offering special cookware deals to Houstonians who have lost everything.
The Covid pandemic brings fresh challenges that had never been seen before and new partnerships. Early in the pandemic Chantal provides face masks to its factories who could not purchase them. Later in the pandemic the factories sent face masks to Chantal when they could not be purchased. The company launches a new website during the shut-down and puts more focus on e-commerce than ever after traditional retailers are forced to close their doors.
From a product introduction standpoint this is a banner year. Chantal re-launches stainless steel cooking utensils, adds a coffee & kettle assortment called the "Scandinavian Collection", expands Cast Iron cookware, and the stainless steel cookware assortment grows into three distinctly different collections - 3.Clad, Induction 21 Steel & Chantal Stripes.
Chantal celebrates 50 years of business on October 22nd! Heida becomes the first woman founder in US history to have remained sole controller of a multimillion-dollar company at its 50-year benchmark. Over those years Heida has been awarded over 50 patents, and 31 trademarks from both the USA & Germany. Chantal has sold over 5 million teakettles and can be found in high end retail stores across all 50 states. In commemoration of the "golden" anniversary Chantal is launching Marigold color across multiple product categories. Available starting in July of this year.