Yeah, it's a chain, but it feels less like a chain that Williams-Sonoma does. That, though, may just be because the store layout doesn't feel quite as "designed" (which means, of course, it's probably much more designed), relying on simple wire shelving instead of fancy built-in shelves...
...and Cooking Etc. (our local independent cookware store) isn't open on Sunday, nor does it carry the knives that I like. That's actually a big deal. I don't blame them for trying to keep their knife inventory down (it's often the biggest capital-sink in a cooking store), but it means I can't go to them to buy knives.
I've been dissatisfied with our kitchen knives for a while. They're crappy stamped stainless with wood handles slapped on the side. I can sharpen them and get an edge, but not without major effort. And those are the better knives; the serrated set with plastic handles are worse. It's been time for new knives for quite a while.
The plan was to replace the stack 'o junk knives with just a few good ones that would be comfortable, high-quality and easy to keep clean, and the Global "Black Dot" series from Yoshikin fit that description nicely.
Now there are plenty of knife sets available, and Global doesn't lag behind the competiton. Alton Brown says, though, that knife sets are rarely the bargain they look, as they usually include pieces that you will never use (and lord knows, our old blocks contained more than a few knives I never used). I was pleasantly surprised to see that Global did a very basic 3-piece set: 8" chef's knife, 6" utility knife and a paring knife. Nothing wrong with that; those are all knives that I would use on a regular basis.
Only Sur La Table didn't have the set in stock.
They had the new Global 3-knife set. Very similar, but featuring a slightly different paring knife and a 8" hollow-ground santoku (Japanese-style chef's knife, yeah the link is a Henckels, but there are very few pictures of the Global hollow-ground santoku). That made the decision easy. Well, that and K deciding that this would be a good birthday present for me.
We also picked up a magnet bar (not the one linked, but a cheaper one; it's not like magnet bars are high-end items, even though Global sells a matching "black dot" magnet bar that costs $120) and a steel (can't live without one) so these knives wouldn't end up like the old ones.
Oh, and while we were there I looked at box graters (our box graters were also really crappy). Microplane is making a really cool box grater, so we picked one of those up too. Now we've got two fewer knife blocks taking up counter space, and one fewer box grater.