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San Francisco’s Iconic ‘Ghirardelli’ Chocolate Company Sign to Go Dark

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Also: Cooks fret over SF’s proposed natural gas ban, and more news to start your day

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Ghirardelli Square
The owners of San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square are replacing the complex’s aging sign
Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images

SF’s huge “Ghirardelli” sign will be removed by the owners of Ghirardelli Square

The SF Chronicle reports that Jamestown Properties, a company that since 2013 has owned Fisherman’s Wharf-adjacent tourist destination Ghirardelli Square, will remove the structure’s massive “Ghirardelli” sign piece-by piece in coming days, with a plan to erect a new sign later this summer.

The sign is, of course, a landmark — and it also serves to advertise the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, a confectionery business that, per its website, was launched in the 1800s by Domenico Ghirardelli as “Ghirardely & Girard,” making it the third-oldest chocolate company in the U.S.

Eventually, the company bought a city block previously occupied by the Pioneer Woolen Building, and turned it into a candy-making factory — then, as part of the 1915 World’s Fair (according to Sidney Lawrence’s The Ghirardelli Story) the huge “Ghirardelli” was added to the structure.

There it remained even after the Golden Grain Macaroni Company bought Ghirardelli in the 1960s, moving chocolate production to a building in San Leandro and flipping the former factory. Subsequent owners converted the building into Ghirardelli Square, a restaurant and retail space that the city named an official landmark some years later. All this, as the gigantic “Ghirardelli” sign continued to shine.

(It’s not just Ghirardelli Square that’s changed hands a number of times: the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company has since been passed from Golden Grain to Quaker Oats to a private investment group to — in 1998 — Swiss-based company Lindt and Sprüngli.)

It appears that the years have taken a toll on the sign, as Jamestown tells the Chron that it’s suffered from persistent “electrical failures” in recent years. Soon, workers will remove the sign letter-by-letter, transport it “to an offsite facility,” and build a new sign to take its place.

That new sign, Jamestown says, will be revealed later this summer — and in the meantime, if you notice that the old sign is missing in part or in whole, now you know why.

And in other news...

  • To the dismay of many restaurant owners and home chefs, San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and the city Department of the Environment will propose a law to ban the use of natural gas in new construction, which means no gas rangers or ovens in newly-built homes, restaurants, and commercial kitchens. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: 76 percent of emissions from commercial buildings reportedly come from natural gas, and the number rises to 88 percent for residential buildings. Golden Gate Restaurant Association Executive Director Laurie Thomas says that the legislation would unfairly impact Asian restaurants, which rely on gas for many cooking techniques. “From a pure restaurant perspective, we are not happy about it,” Thomas said. “From an environmental perspective, we understand and that is why we are at the table.” [SF Chronicle]
  • Bruce and Sheila Chapman, the owners of 85-year-old Market Street diner It’s Tops, say its tiny dining room wasn’t conducive to social distancing, so they made the decision to close for good. [Hoodline]
  • Berkeley Mexican destination Picante, which went dark in the early days of the coronavirus crisis, relaunched “drive-thru” service for its 26th anniversary. Its owners refuse (at least, for now) to open for outdoor dining given the risk of COVID-19 infection. [Berkeleyside]
  • Chef Rodney Worth has closed two of his spots in Contra Costa County: four-year-old San Ramon barbecue spot Worth Ranch; and the Little Pear, a 10-year-old brunch/lunch restaurant in Danville. [San Jose Mercury News]
  • April Spears, the owner of Bayview bar and restaurant Cafe Envy and soul food/waffle spot Auntie April’s, says restaurants in her neighborhood have been hard hit by the coronavirus crisis. “We need help from outside of the community, from those who have the ability to help,” Spears says. “We need them to treat us as equals to allow us access to loans and capital.” [Livable City]
  • Chick-fil-A, the fast food chain with a homophobic past and a perplexing stance on race as it relates to shoe-shining, has been unanimously welcomed to Milpitas by the city planning commission. This, despite complaints from residents concerned with Chick-fil-A’s lack of support for the LGBTQ community, as well as worries over increased traffic at the location. [San Jose Mercury News]
  • A donation campaign called “A Fork in the Road” seeks to help Berkeley restaurants open for outdoor dining. [Daily Californian]

Auntie April's Chicken, Waffles, & Soul Food Restaurant

4618 3rd Street, , CA 94124 (415) 643-4983 Visit Website

Cafe Envy

1701 Yosemite Avenue, , CA 94124 (415) 800-7394 Visit Website


1328 Sixth Street, , CA 94710 (510) 525-3121 Visit Website