Last month the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company reopened its newly renovated flagship Chocolate Experience Store, located in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square in the Woolen Mill Building. The new design pays homage to the company’s 170 year legacy of making chocolate from scratch and being one of the few companies in America that actually controls the entire chocolate manufacturing process, from cocoa bean to finished product.
Founded in 1852 by by Domingo Ghirardelli, Ghirardelli has built a name in the world of chocolate, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area where it all began for the brand.
“We are thrilled to unveil the Chocolate Experience Store to our community of chocolate lovers and hometown of San Francisco,” said Justin Reese, VP of Retail and eCommerce at Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. “Our premium chocolate, the historic architecture and the stunning views, have made Ghirardelli Square a favorite San Francisco destination. The interior re-design brings a new vibrant experience to the classic space.”
The newly opened Chocolate Experience Store gives guests the opportunity to watch Ghirardelli chocolatiers hand crafting the brand’s signature hot fudge from only three ingredients: pure Ghirardelli chocolate, milk, and vanilla. Guests can also personalize a tin of signature chocolate squares selected from the brand’s largest Pick & Mix yet (with up to 40 different flavors during the holidays).
Also offered are over-the-top ice cream creations. Guests can’t pass up the World Famous Hot Fudge Sundae, or a number of other decadent creations like the Ocean Beach Sea Salt Caramel Sundae with caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream, handmade milk or dark chocolate hot fudge topped with whipped cream, sea salt and a sea salt caramel square. Diners are invite to eat in the store’s Alcatraz room which offers stunning, unobstructed views of San Francisco Bay.
Check out my experience here.
We chatted with Justin Reese, VP of Retail and eCommerce at Ghirardelli Chocolate Company on the new store and it’s experiences; the brand’s 170-year heritage and more. Here’s what he had to say.
What was the catalyst in renovating the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience Store? Talk about the plans to renovate the other two stores — what do guests have to look forward to with those reopenings?
We are so proud of our storied history in San Francisco at Ghirardelli Square but also appreciate that all brands must evolve and our store concept was in need of a refresh. In addition to improving our operational set up to accommodate the high volume of visitors we welcome, we wanted to put the guest experience front and center and showcase our modern, innovative brand.
The two other stores that will also be renovated as part of this three phased renovation project and we can’t wait to share more details with you in the near future.
How does the newly designed space honor Ghirardelli’s 170-year heritage?
We worked with the Eight, Inc. design team to create a space that represents our modern expression of welcoming and vibrant, while retaining the classic design and beloved history of Ghirardelli Square and the original Woolen Mills building.
We have preserved many of the historic and period details, leaving the façade untouched and exposing more of the original brick work and timber beams. We went deep into our archives to find the best retro advertising pieces and 19th century photographs to celebrate our long history.
We’ve been perfecting the art of premium chocolate for 170 years and it was important to us that the new renovations celebrate the true craftmanship of chocolate. We wanted to bring forward the sensorial elements of chocolate and you can now see, smell and taste fresh hot fudge and chocolate bars being made in small batches right onsite.
What goes behind the making of the World-Famous Hot Fudge Sundae?
Every World Famous Hot Fudge Sundae includes a generous portion of hot fudge, made fresh daily in store. The recipe starts with pure Ghirardelli chocolate, made across the San Francisco Bay in San Leandro.
That pure milk or dark chocolate is then mixed with milk and vanilla in store for a decadent sundae topping that highlights the unbeatable flavor of Ghirardelli chocolate. Every day, customers are able to watch Ghirardelli Experience Store team members hand craft batches of hot fudge and try samples.
Talk about the huge selection of Pick & Mix and the fun personalization that comes with it. How are you making these classic Ghirardelli experiences special and exciting for new guests?
The Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience store houses the brand’s largest Pick & Mix, with each and every flavor of Ghirardelli’s famous chocolate squares to choose from. During the holiday season, this number grows to nearly 40 chocolate square flavors with the addition of limited-edition seasonal squares.
As an exclusive offering of this store, customers can create unique mixes of their favorite squares then customize a bag or tin with a personal photo and message, created and printed instantly in store. This one-of-a-kind experience blends digital and physical elements and allows our guests to take a little piece of Ghirardelli home with them.
What’s special about the live Chocolate Bar Creation? How is it particularly unique to this shop?
The Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience store is the only Ghirardelli location where we make fresh chocolate bars for sale right in the store. Chocolatiers make 4 different flavors of chocolate bars in house: Milk Chocolate with Roasted Almonds, Milk Chocolate with Roasted Hazelnuts, Dark Chocolate with Roasted Almonds and Dark Chocolate with Roasted Hazelnuts.
The almonds and hazelnuts in these bars are freshly roasted daily in-store, giving a more flavorful chocolate bar with a deeper flavor profile. Chocolate for these bars are tempered in store and delivered into molds via “tempering taps,” a process customers can watch live. Tempering is the process of heating and cooling chocolate to a precise temperature to create a glossy, snappy chocolate bar.