comings & goings | Sep 15, 2022 |
West Elm’s Alex Bellos heads to Food52

Change at the top for some of the industry’s biggest brands: West Elm president Alex Bellos is headed to Food52. There, he’ll be co-CEO alongside Food52 co-founder Amanda Hesser for an interim period of six months—after that, Hesser will become executive chair and Bellos will be the sole CEO. In the role, he’ll oversee the content-meets-commerce giant’s portfolio, which includes heritage cookware maker Dansk and Oregon-based whole home brand Schoolhouse.

“I’ve been a community member of Food52 almost since the beginning, and the unique combination of content and commerce is so compelling,” Bellos tells Business of Home. “I’m excited to help grow this amazing family of brands.”

Hesser, who has led Food52 solo since the departure of co-founder Merrill Stubbs in 2020, says a shift in her role has been in the works for some time, and that going forward she’ll be focusing on big-picture brand identity, content strategy, and developing the various brands’ user communities. “Over the last year, the company has transformed a lot—we’ve become a portfolio brand, not just a singular company,” she says. “This is a great moment to shift my focus and have a partner who has scaled businesses like ours and can focus on growth and trajectory.”

Bellos has been president of West Elm since 2017, but his history with the brand stretches back to 2008, when he served as a vice president of strategy and development. In 2013, he transitioned to a leadership role at Rejuvenation shortly after the light fixtures and hardware brand was acquired by Williams-Sonoma. Once back at West Elm, he led the retailer during a period that saw annual revenue double to more than $2 billion.

Mike Kerns, co-founder of The Chernin Group, the private equity firm that acquired a majority stake in Food52 for a reported $83 million in 2019, says that Bellos’s mix of home industry experience and e-commerce expertise make him ideal for the role. “We had an incredible amount of interest and Alex stood out,” he says. “We were thrilled by his background in Rejuvenation, his leadership at West Elm—it made sense on multiple fronts.”

Bellos joins Food52 following a period of rapid expansion for the brand. With its focus on home and its strength in e-commerce, the company was uniquely positioned to ride the rocket-powered growth engine of the pandemic era—Kerns says it almost tripled its business. Meanwhile, in addition to the acquisition of Dansk and Schoolhouse (the latter effectively doubled the brand’s head count), Food52 is in the midst of building a 42,000 square-foot headquarters in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

However, amid a broader economic slowdown and a shift away from consumer spending on home, Food52 now faces a more challenging road ahead. There are no big acquisitions on the short-term horizon, and earlier this year the company underwent two rounds of layoffs and some budget cutbacks. Hesser says the changes were made to make the business more efficient, and that it’s now “well-positioned to go after the things we want to.”

Kerns says that the brand’s strong community and organic growth engine make it resilient to turbulent economic waters. “The company’s year-over-year comps are much stronger than the Shopify or Salesforce data you see for home e-commerce,” he says. “The fact that Food52 has been able to maintain strong levels of performance without having to supplement with paid marketing is a testament to the approach that Amanda created.”

Bellos, for his part, is focused on continuing the formula that has led to success for the parent company, while finding synergies with Dansk and Schoolhouse. Coming out of the pandemic, he says, is a perfect time to grow a home brand. “We’re at this incredible time of establishing how people live in their homes,” he says. “I’m excited to really be at the vanguard of bringing that to life through content and commerce—bringing an entirely new model for what a home business looks like.”

Homepage image: Amanda Hesser and Alex Bellos | Courtesy of Food52

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