San Francisco's Original Chocolate CompanyWhen Domingo Ghirardelli immigrated to the United States in 1849, he planned to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush. Unsuccessful, he opened a store in Stockton selling supplies and some confections to other hopeful miners. Flash forward a few years (and failed businesses), and Ghirardelli opened another confectionary company called Ghirardely & Girard, which would lay the foundation for today’s Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Chocolate was made on San Francisco's northern waterfront for many years but eventually moved out of the city. Luckily the buildings still stand, including the historic power plant with clock tower. Two floors were added to a warehouse in 1923, and atop those the famous 15-foot-high letters spelling out “Ghirardelli." Though the company continues to make chocolate, it is no longer owned by the Ghirardelli family. Still, there are plenty of reasons to visit the brick buildings that have been transformed into a thriving marketplace with restaurants, art galleries, shops, a winetasting room, and of course, a place to taste and buy Ghirardelli chocolate, a true San Francisco original. The square also hosts some popular San Francisco events, including an annual Christmas tree lighting and a chocolate festival held each September.
While Ghirardelli chocolate bars can be bought at locations throughout the city, and perhaps even at your local grocery store, a visit to the original factory should be on any chocolate lover's to-do list when visiting San Francisco. A quick tour of the small plant provides an overview of how the company's chocolate is produced, while the adjacent soda fountain offers a selection of sundaes and shakes, all made with Ghirardelli chocolate. There is also a store selling Ghirardelli products, from ready-to-eat bars to baking chocolates and hot-chocolate mixes, should you want to take a taste of San Francisco home. Note that the factory and soda fountain are located within Ghirardelli Square, a shopping hub with a number of other stores if you have a mind to look for additional San Francisco souvenirs before or after your sundae.