Seagulls fly over Alcatraz in the distance and Fisherman’s Warf can be smelled from a block over while tourists from all over the world enter Ghirardelli Square in a tizzy. The square includes boutiques, shops, a hotel and of course the original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.
The word “Ghirardelli” can be seen from the San Francisco harbor as ships come in night or day. Since 1923, the light bulb sign has been lit during the nighttime and has become a landmark.
Entering the 1960s style ice cream shop, a young girl stands at the hostess booth wearing a black apron. Her dark hair is pulled back tightly into a bun that sits beneath her soda jerk hat. Her name tag reads Maria over her left chest pocket.
Maria hands out numbered table tents to each party. Number 16 goes to a blonde haired couple in their 20s who sit down at a two-person table waiting to indulge in chocolates, sweets and ice cream.
In 1849, Italian immigrant Domenico Ghirardelli moved to the western part of the United States after being lured by opportunity during the California Gold Rush. He opened his first store in a mining camp to sell sweets and treats to miners who were lacking the small pleasures of life. It was not until 1852 that Ghirardelli founded a confectionary shop in San Francisco that is now the modern day Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.
With this rich history, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is the third oldest chocolate company existing in the United States after Baker’s Chocolate and Whitman’s. Come 2017, Ghirardelli will celebrate its 165th anniversary.
Alex Novak, a fountain server, came to the United States 10 years ago from the Czech Republic. Similar to Domenico Ghirardelli, he was in search for a new opportunity. He stands behind the counter with his bow tie tight around his neck and the word “Ghirardelli” is stitched to the side of his soda jerk hat.
“I love working here,” he said. His English is spoken with a Czech accent. “I’ve lived on the East Coast, but nothing felt quite like home until I came here.”
Alex compares the open and welcoming European culture he remembers from home to the San Franciscan culture. He pours a bowl full of solid chocolate into a pot that will next be melted down into fudge and drizzled over ice cream.
“So many tourists come in and out of the shop,” he said. “I’m able to meet people and hear their stories from around the world while introducing them to the best chocolate in America.”
Alex smiles as he continues to work with his artistic medium, chocolate. The conveyer belt and industrial sized mixers continue to push liquidated chocolate back and forth.
A waiter passes Alex with a large platter on his shoulder that holds six sundae orders. Each order has either vanilla or chocolate ice cream with hot fudge drizzled over it and a perfect swirl of whipped cream. Each sundae has varying toppings from toasted nuts, to maraschino cherries, to fudge brownies. All six customers’ mouths drop when they see the waiter bringing their order from the other side of the counter.
A 5-year-old boy lifts his spoon with his whole hand gripped around it. His spoon cuts through the fudge brownie and breaks the surface of the vanilla ice cream that sits below. He lifts the oversized spoon to his mouth and the fudge dribbles out of the corners of his lips and down to his chin. With one big gulp, he says “mmm!”
No matter if you’re a couple in your 20s, or even a 5-year-old child, Ghirardelli Square is not a place to miss when on the West Coast. The process of chocolate making will leave your mouth salivating with sweetness and the taste of every treat is something to savor always.
- Ghirardelli Squares chocolates deliver the perfect balance of intense, slow-melting Ghirardelli chocolate and luscious fillings
- We hand-select the world’s finest cocoa beans to create our proprietary bean blend and roast them to perfection, then we slow-blend in the purest ingredients to achieve our award-winning distinctively intense chcolate
- Made in USA During summer months, item ships with cooler packs to ensure chocolate arrives in perfect condition