The chocolate scene at Bay is radical, innovative and profound. That said, few players in the cocoa game have a deeper historical connection with this town than the people at Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Now the company is expected to step into the 21st century in a big way. The Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience Store, inside the Woolen Mill Building in Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, is reopening to the public on May 20 after an extensive redesign. Ghirardelli wants to not only look better, but also to share the behind-the-scenes smells and sights of chocolate making. “It’s one of the most iconic locations in San Francisco,” says Justin Reese, Ghirardelli Square’s VP of Retail and Ecommerce. “But we realized that our retail sector needed a refresh.”
The 5,985-square-foot space was updated to allow the 170-year-old chocolate company to bring customers into the chocolate-making experience. This is the first time the company will be making an in-store fresh chocolate bar with roasted hazelnuts and almonds for customers. Makeover Led by Eight Inc. did, which was responsible for the Bay Area design firm East Machina The sleek style of Apple’s retail stores. For further design inspiration, Reese says the company and designers looked to Ghirardelli’s own brand. “Ghirardelli Square is kind of original,” says Reese. “It’s such a special place. We didn’t need to copy anything else.”
Retail offerings won’t change much. The main draws are still sundaes, with Sea Salt and Brownie sundaes pointing to Ocean Beach and Lands End respectively. Pick and Mix, Ghirardelli’s term for making your own bag of famous chocolate squares, is a chance for fans to make their own grab-bags; The shop produces over 40 flavors of chocolate squares – with over 20 available for purchase every day. Customers can also personalize their tins with on-site photo printing to apply to tins and bags at no additional cost, making this the build-a-bare workshop of chocolate shops.
Ghirardelli’s head of R&D, Steve Genzoli, is baffled by the idea that customers will be able to smell everything from just-made chocolate bars to baking waffle cones. “We do many things really well, but this is the first time we can really demonstrate it,” Genzoli says. “Few people have tasted freshly roasted walnuts. You put that chocolate inside and it explodes inside your mouth.” Now fans will get that full olfactory experience while they wait for their order, or while they shop and browse the offerings at the historic San Francisco landmark. The giant windows Will let fans see Alcatraz and bring in some natural light for staff as they take care of operations in the back.
Tourists and locals alike have long flocked to Ghirardelli Square, and engagement with the many communities was top of mind during the redesign. Supports the Boys and Girls Clubs in Ghirardelli Bay; In early May, Ghirardelli brought in parents associated with a boys’ and girls’ club to throw the first pitch at a Giants game. “We see Ghirardelli Square as a way to advance our partnership,” says Reese. “It’s not a radical change. It’s about shedding light on the great things we do.”
Customers will be treated to better views of the bay in the shop’s redesign. Albert Law The Pick & Mix Station allows customers to create their own chocolate mixes to take home. Albert Law
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