History of Ghirardelli Chocolate


The Ghirardelli company has a rich and vibrant history, beginning with the fascinating story of Domenico Ghirardelli, an Italian confectioner. He spent a few years in South America operating Domingo's Chocolates before coming to San Fransisco to start the world-famous Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.

The Founder of Ghirardelli

Domenico Ghirardelli was born in Rapallo, Italy to a family of exotic food importers and entered into an apprenticeship with a confectioner as an adolescent. Ghirardelli moved to the San Fransisco Bay area to prospect for gold but realized he could make more money supplying the miners instead.

The Great San Fransisco Fires

Ghirardelli opened a general store and confectionery in a tent in Stockton. His tent shop thrived and spread to many locations, selling chocolates and coffees. However, they all burned in the 1906 great fire in San Fransisco.

Domingo Retired

In 1892, Domingo Ghirardelli retired and left his 4 sons to run the business. They ran it until 1963 when it was bought by the Golden Grain Macaroni Company. The business was a success, requiring its own power plant--the beginning of Ghirardelli Square.

A National Landmark

The city of San Fransisco declared Ghirardelli Square an official landmark in 1965. It was bought by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance a few years later.

Quaker Oats

From 1986-1992, the Quaker Oats company owned and operated Ghirardelli Chocolates after acquiring it, along with the Golden Grain Macaroni Company, from the De Domenico Family.

Ghirardelli in the 1990s

A private investment group headed by John J. Anton and the Thomas H. Lee Company bought Ghirardelli Chocolates from the Quaker Company in 1992 and sold it to a Swiss company called Lindt and Sprungli Chocolate in 1998.


  • The Ghirardelli Story

About this Author

Lisa Russell has been a freelance writer since 1998. She's been published in "Rethinking Everything Magazine," "Playdate" and "Home Educator's Family Times." She has a professional background in education, cosmetology and the restaurant industry. Russell studied early childhood education at Antelope Valley College, and is pursuing a degree in law.

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