Ghirardelli Story

Demenico Ghirardelli was born in Rapallo, Italy in 1817 to an exotic foods importer and his young wife. Young Domenico apprenticed for a local candy maker and there was introduced to the chocolate and confectionary trade. In 1837 at the age of 20, Ghirardelli would marry his first wife and set sail for Uruguay to partake in the South American Chocolate trade. His first job was for a coffee and chocolate establishment. A year later in 1838, lured by opportunities in Lima, Ghirardelli sails to Peru and opens shop next to an American cabinet maker named James Lick. In 1847, enticed by stories of prosperity in North America, Lick leaves for San Francisco with 600 pounds of Ghirardelliís chocolate. Meanwhile, Ghirardelli continues to operate his store in Peru and changes his Italian name of Demenico to the Spanish equivalent of Domingo. Following the death of his first wife in 1849, he remarries to Carmen Alvarado. He hears of the gold rush in Sutterís Mill and sails alone to California. After prospecting in the Jamestown ĀESonora area, Ghirardelli again becomes a merchant and opens up a general store in Stockton, California, selling supplies and confections to fellow miners. The shop located in a tent is one of the first in the area. Several months later, Ghirardelli opens a second store on the corner of Broadway and Battery in San Francisco, becoming his first establishment in the city.

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Ghirardelli Chocolate And Chocolate Squares

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Ghirardelli Story Continued Below
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Ghirardelli Story Continued

On May third 1851, the fifth of a series of San Francisco fires destroys some 1,500 buildings, including the Ghirardelliís Battery Street Location. Three days later a runaway fire levels half of Stockton. In a few days, Ghirardelliís businesses are burnt out of existence. In September of that year, he quickly consolidates his salvaged assets and opens the Cairo Coffee House on San Franciscoís Commercial Street. After the Cairo Coffee House fails in 1852, Ghirardelli stays in San Francisco and forms a new confectionery company on the corner of Kearny and Washington streets called Ghirardelli and Girard. This establishment is what would become the modern day Ghirardelli Chocolate Company with over 150 years of tradition and manufacturing history. With business now flourishing, Ghirardelli now sends for his family in Peru and changes the company name to Mrs. Ghirardelli & Company; however, it is still run by Domingo. In September of 1853, the Ghirardelli family relocates the company to the corner of Jackson and Mason streets in San Francisco. By 1855, with the business continually growing, the manufacturing is moved to a larger facility on the corner of Greenwich and Powell streets, which also houses the living quarters for the family. The office is still kept at 138 Jackson Street.

Around 1865, someone in the Ghirardelli Company discovers that by hanging a bag of chocolate in a warm room, the cocoa butter drips out, leaving a residue that can be processed into ground chocolate. This technique is called the Broma process and is used in the manufacture of chocolate. By 1866, imports of cocoa beans by Ghirardelli climb to 1,000 pounds per year. In 1884, three of the four Ghirardelli sons become partners in the business that now employs 30 people and ships products all over the west, east of the United States, China, Japan and Mexico. The company now focuses on chocolate and by 1885 is importing over 450,000 pounds of cocoa beans. By 1892, Domingo Ghirardelli retires and turns the management over to his three sons. Needing more space, in 1893, the company purchases the Pioneer Woolen Mill building and manufacturing moves to that location, on San Franciscoís northern waterfront. This is the present location of Ghirardelli Square. On a trip home to Rapallo, Italy, Domingo Ghirardelli dies at the age of 77 on January 17, 1894. In 1900, a two story warehouse (now called the Cocoa Building) is built on North Point Street. The 1906 earthquake and fire do not damage the companyís operations and operations resume 10 within days. The company now adds a Power House in 1915 and in 1923 two floors to the Cocoa Building, which becomes the base for a 15 feet high illuminated sign spelling Ghirardelli. This sign, visible for miles becomes a welcoming sight to ships passing through the Golden Gate Bridge. The buildings with a handsome collection of plants, offices and a beautifully designed clock in the style of Chateau Blois in France, stand prominently at the corner of North Point and Larkin Street.

In 1962, two prominent San Franciscans, William Matson Roth and his mother, Mrs. William P Roth, acquire the buildings and commission the firm of Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons to design a modern specialty shopping center. Retaining the exceptional Victorian qualities of the complex, so they are renovated and saved, in what is today Ghirardelli Square. By 1963, The Golden Grain Macaroni Company, owned by the De Domenico family, purchases the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. In 1965, San Francisco declares Ghirardelli Square an official city landmark and in 1967 production facilities move to San Leandro, California. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and Real Property West, companies become the new owners of Ghiradelli Square in 1968. The new owners apply for and are granted National Historic Register status for Ghirardelli Square and the management seeks to enhance and improve the ambience of the Square by adding more greenery, trees, and flowers to the landscape and outdoor umbrellas. Ghirardelli Square now becomes a model for the restoration of classic buildings throughout the country. In 1986, the Quaker Oats Company acquires Golden Grain and Ghirardelli Chocolate and in 1992 Quaker Oats sells the Ghirardelli Chocolate division to a private investment group headed by John J. Anton and the Thomas H. Lee Company. John J. Anton becomes President and CEO of Ghirardelli Chocolate. From 1993 to 2000, Ghirardelli opens retail stores in many locations throughout the country. In 1998, Lindt and Sprungli Chocolate out of Switzerland acquires Ghirardelli Chocolate Company as a wholly owned subsidiary of its holding company and the largest plant expansion ever begins for Ghirardelli Chocolate with a 50,000 square foot production and 20,000 square foot laboratory and office space. Ghirardelli Chocolate Company launches its now famous filled chocolate squares, including the Milk Chocolate with Caramel Filling and continues to expand the line from 1999 to 2009. Ghirardelli Chocolate Company celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2002.

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