Annie, our Chief of Staff, has been working on a Herculean task for, quite literally, years. She is in charge of the buildout of our just-out-of-reach 16th Street Factory in San Francisco. From plumbing snafus to signature cards, electrical work to signage, she’s left her mark on nearly every bolt, hinge, and joist of the space (opening in about a month). This story is her recall of the trials by fire of one of the largest projects of her life, and a preview of what’s inside.
Much like an expertly crafted bar of single-origin chocolate, building a chocolate factory takes equal parts skill, patience, determination, finesse, creativity, and, in all honesty, perhaps a whisper of insanity.
It’s fun, but it definitely has not been easy.
We’ve been working on building our 16th Street Factory for over four years, and at long last we are in the final stages of construction. I’ve been working on this project for just about two years now, and it has been hard to imagine this space as anything other than a construction site filled with the familiar and comforting sounds of hammering, welding, and drilling.
For the past few months, we’ve been moving past more of the work that yields invisible progress (conduit runs to junction boxes, refrigerant lines, anything plumbing related) and we’ve started working on the finishes throughout the factory. With each light illuminated and each counter installed, the space is brought to life just a bit more.
It’s slightly bewildering, but even more thrilling, to think of the day in the not-so-distant future when I’ll be able to enter a room using a door with a handle instead of walking through the giant void where a window is supposed to be. The chaotic hammering, sawing, and drilling will soon be replaced by the quiet hum of the roaster, the gentle whoosh of the winnower, and the hypnotic white noise of our stone melangers hard at work.
I never thought that a question as simple as, “When will you be open?” could be so difficult to answer. We are so close to completion, but still have the lingering uncertainty of our final inspections ahead of us. Are there enough exit signs? Are the soap dispensers in all of the right places? Will they tell us we need ANOTHER PERMIT? If we manage to pass all of these inspections with flying colors, with colors, or even with a simple checkmark, we’ll be ready to open around the end of April. If we don’t, well, we’ll fix what needs to be fixed and try again the next week. Regardless, we are in the final stages of construction, and the building will without a doubt be open to the public soon…very soon.
When you work on a project all day, every day for years, it can be easy to lose sight of the scale and the beauty of exactly what it is you’re doing. We’re building something that has some elements that San Francisco hasn’t seen in decades, and others that the city has yet to experience.
Yes, but…what’s inside??
The 16th Street Factory will have a café that is reminiscent of our Valencia St. location, but it will be slightly smaller and geared more toward folks who want to stop in, grab a Mission Mocha and a cookie (yes, for breakfast), and get to work.
There is also the option of following a not-so-secret path that starts at the café and leads you down a small set of stairs, past our circa 1920’s freight elevator, and onto our catwalk that provides an intimate look at the roasting, winnowing, and melanging processes. At the end of the catwalk is our bleacher seating, where anyone who wishes to visit the factory can sit, relax, and watch our chocolate makers hard at work.
Sound exciting? That’s only a third of the factory! Directly adjacent to our café is a gleaming, gorgeous room that is home to our chocolate salon, an elevated pastry and chocolate dining experience that will offer a decadent breakfast menu, our chocolatey take on afternoon tea, and eventually, plated desserts in the evening. We’ve applied for a beer and wine license for the space, but, shockingly, we’ve hit a few snags and we are still working on securing it.
Our Chocolate Experiences team will be offering classes, both new and classic, and more opportunities for private events and event rental in the space. We also have a small amount of workspace where our teams can plan and coordinate to help the business run.
We are so proud of what we’ve built and we cannot wait to share it with you all. Stay tuned for exciting updates on our progress, an opening date, and more via our newsletter and Instagram. I’m looking forward to hosting you in our newest factory very, very soon.