Charrette was founded in 1964 by two Harvard architectural students, Lionel Spiro and Blair Brown. The company sold architecture design products and was based in Cambridge, New York, until it was sold in the late 1990s. Following a series of additional sell-offs, the company was eventually absorbed by Agfa.
After experiencing difficulties in finding architectural drafting supplies, Spiro and Brown, two students at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design decided to start a one-stop architectural shop in Cambridge. Charrette started as a supplier to architects and slowly expanded to encompass a range of supplies for engineers, commercial designers, fine artists and industrial designers. From the 1970s to the 1990s, Charrette offered products from renowned architectural and art design brands, such as Zip-A-Tone, Keuffel & Esser, Pantone, Rapidograph and Koh-I-Noor.
By the mid-1990s, Charrette operated from a 1,600-square-foot store in Cambridge and had grown to an $89 million business with over 20 branches in more than a dozen states. Faced with the early 1990s recession and the transition to computer-based design, the founders decided to refocus on professional sales and then sold their retooled entity to Berkshire Partners. The company was resold to various business entities before it was eventually bought by the Pitman Company.
In 2010, the Pitman Company was absorbed by Agfa, the German-Belgian multinational corporation that develops, manufactures and distributes analogue and digital imaging products and systems, as well as IT solutions. Currently, all Charette stores have been closed down, and the company’s website, Charrette.com, redirects to Pitman.com, an Agfa-Pitman e-commerce store.