COVID sucks. And it changed everything. One change that seemed bad at first — stores and offices closing as everyone who could moved their businesses online and remote — has been a boon for our local chocolatiers and chocolate makers who can now afford commercial space after years of ever-increasing rents squeezing them out of the market.
In fact before COVID I had been thinking about doing an article on all the great SFBA chocolatiers who had left the area because of ridiculously high rents. Now things are looking up and instead I get to talk about all the new — and coming — chocolate places here.
Looking for a second home
This week I got an email from The Xocolate Bar announcing that they are running a fundraiser for a second location. They did a reno of their Solano Ave. space in 2022 but they couldn’t make it any bigger so now they plan to open a retail and fulfillment space in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood if they can raise the $$$. They will keep the Solano Ave. location too — heck it probably still has that fresh paint smell — but having more space will make their working lives easier and their chocolate more accessible.
That email nudged me to write this article about all the new chocolate spaces in SFBA since the March 2020 COVID lockdown. I also want to highlight a couple of places that are coming so you can watch for them. And finally I have one potential but pricy place with a chocolate pedigree that could be home to lots of chocolate if someone has deep pockets and chocolate vision.
Opened since COVID lockdown
The first 2 chocolate spots that opened during the lockdown were already in the works beforehand and maybe suffered the most initially but they both seem to be thriving now.
Veteran chocolatier Jade Chocolates has had a couple of retail locations before. (I still miss their Richmond District store which I would visit on my 2x yearly dental appointments in my old neighborhood.) But owner Mindy Fong wanted to get a place in Chinatown to celebrate her roots (her great-grandfather had a tea house in the area) and promote this special place.
She opened her shop on Grant Avenue 2 blocks from the Dragon Gate in July 2020. At first it was pickup only but now the store is open 5 days a week and the café where Mindy hosts regular afternoon teas opened in 2022. (I plan to celebrate my birthday there this year so I will have a story to come.)
The other local chocolatier who opened a storefront in July 2020 is Carol Garcia. Her Kokak Chocolates on 18th St. in the Castro District is where she makes and sells chocolates. It’s also a café with chocolate drinks, pastries, and other treats.
And she is not stopping there. Kokak announced in May 2022 that they were opening a second location in Japantown on Post St. There is no opening date announced yet but the space is more than 3x as big as the cute shop in the Castro.
The one new location I have visited since the pandemic started is Michael’s Chocolates on Grand Avenue in Oakland. Opened in 2021 in the space that was Michael Mischer’s shop until he retired, it’s a factory store plus a café and gelato shop.
It’s a pleasant airy space with decorations by Michael’s mom and echoes of the other Michael’s setup. In addition to selling the whole Michael’s Chocolates line they also have a section of other local products Michael endorses such as Marich Pancrafted Chocolates and Raphio Chocolate. Maybe best of all because it’s the factory store of a very creative chocolatier, there are often limited edition items only available at the store of products Michael is working on.
Fleur Sauvage Chocolates
Up in Wine Country, Fleur Savage Chocolates got their start selling their chocolates at local farmers markets and special events. They opened their first shop in December 2021 where they also host “Wine Country Tea Times” (reservation only). The savory foods at the teas are supplied by local producers including some of Fleur Savage’s fellow farmers market vendors. The sweet treats at the teas are of course made by Fleur Savage’s award winning owner/chef Robert “Buttercup” Nieto.
SF chocolate maker/chocolatier/confectioner L’Amourette Chocolatier opened their first store in a former clothing boutique on Fillmore St. in SF’s upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood in February 2022.
L’Amourette is known for their reasonably priced high quality chocolate. And while a lot of local markets carry L’Amourette bars, the stores only carry some of the line. Now you can check out the whole line by visiting L’Amourette’s cute little shop at 2412 Fillmore.
Swiss trained chocolatier Ursula Schnyder of Half Moon Bay’s Sweet55 opened a 2nd location in Palo Alto in 2022. In addition to their Swiss style chocolates, the Palo Alto store has coffee drinks and some baked goods from their original Half Moon Bay location.
French trained chef Shekoh Moossavi of Shekoh Confections opened her first shop in Palo Alto in 2022. You can buy custom boxes of her truffles online but if you visit the store, you can buy other treats including molded chocolates, marshmallows, and nougat.
Bean to bar maker Bisou Chocolate announced they are opening their first storefront on 9th St. in Berkeley in May. In addition to their range of single origin bars, they have expanded their wares to enrobed chocolates, drinking chocolate, and white chocolate. At the new space they will sell their full line plus hot chocolate and cold brew cacao.
Chocolate maker/chocolatier Rainy Day Chocolate is opening their first storefront in Forestville in June or July. In addition to selling their chocolate bars, marshmallows, and award winning toffee in the store, they will have seating, classes, and tours. With a real commercial kitchen they also plan to expand their line of treats. Follow their progress on Facebook or Instagram.
Finally there’s a historic chocolate site on the market — all you need is a cool $5MM.
The Hooper’s Chocolates building in the Temescal district of Oakland is a 13,500+ sq. ft. building fronted by a distinctive pink and white Cape Cod style 2-story retail/office space with commercial kitchen space and storage in the back.
The Hoopers bought the building from another chocolatier in 1950. Before that they had been making chocolates in their garage. (Their story seems similar to others in this article.) After the Hoopers died, the business went through several owners before finally closing in 2010. Since then the building has been mostly empty — it’s available for sale or lease — but the monthly rent must be killer.
The listing includes pix of the inside, which show that the space would need considerable renovation. And while there’s commercial kitchen space with hookups and floor drainage, it’s bare space.
But it’s a lotta space — could definitely fit more than a few chocolatiers inside. Just need the bucks and a vision… anyone listening?