4 Generations of Chocolate Family Traditions:
ETIENNE GUITTARD, Founder.... In early 1860, attracted by the mystique of the California Gold Rush, Etienne set out on the arduous journey by ship from France to the new and rapidly growing city of San Francisco on the legendary Barbary Coast. He was just twenty-two. A skilled chocolate maker, he brought fine French chocolate from his uncle's factory to trade for supplies. Once provisioned, he headed to the Sierras where he was to stay for three years before returning to San Francisco.
Etienne’s was destined to be a different kind of gold. Back in San Francisco, suddenly-wealthy miners were prepared to pay premium prices for fine food and shopkeepers encouraged the Frenchman to supply them with the excellent chocolate they remembered from his first visit. He sailed to Paris where he scrimped and saved to buy the necessary equipment and returned to San Francisco in 1868 where he opened Guittard Chocolate on Sansome Street. He ran a thriving business until his death 31 years later. E. Guittard's prominence is evidenced by its listing in the first San Francisco telephone directory in 1878 which was all of one page long.
HORACE C. GUITTARD.... When Horace C. took over from his father, little could he have imagined that a few years later, in 1906, most of San Francisco would be destroyed by the legendary earthquake and fire, including his business. He acted quickly to build a new and larger facility on Commercial Street. Business thrived and he expanded in 1921 and again in 1936. In addition to chocolate, he sold coffee, tea and spices.
HORACE A. GUITTARD.... Horace A. entered the family business at age 22 and officially took over from his father upon his father`s death in 1950. Horace A. was instrumental in bringing the company into the era of automated production. In 1955 the company sold its Embarcadero property to the city to make way for the new Embarcadero freeway. Horace A. relocated to Burlingame where his facility was considered to be one of the most modern in the country. In particular, it utilized the new continuous flow concept where all machinery could run full time. This allowed Guittard to become one of the major wholesale suppliers to some of the finest names in the confectionery, ice cream and pastry trade. Meanwhile, Guittard continued to operate like a much smaller company, working closely with customers and customizing products according to their needs.
The Guittard Chocolate Company history is interwoven with the history of American food trends. Guittard was the first to offer high quality chocolate chips, and the first to offer them in large size chips. The company helped turn the fad of truffles into a profitable business for some of its customers, and the proprietary Guittard Sweet Ground Chocolate found its way into trendy cafe mochas. In the 1970`s, Horace A. enlisted his sons Jay and Gary to help him run the business. When Horace died in 1988 at the age of 76, Jay took over. One year later, Jay passed away while still in his mid-forties.
GARY GUITTARD.... Born and raised in San Francisco, Gary happily recollects a boyhood of tasting his way through the family factory. In 1975 he officially joined the company, taking over as President and CEO in 1989. Although the company was then a 100,000 square foot plant employing approximately 150, it continued to run as an extended family operation. Company loyalty has been a hallmark and several employees are second generation.
Today, Guittard is the last of the group of original family-owned food businesses that defined nineteenth century San Francisco. Guittard's newest product line—E. Guittard—is named to honor Gary's great-grandfather, Etienne, and reflects a return to the family's traditional French methods and original formulas. E. Guittard meets a niche in a growing market—the artisan foods market. After five years of testing several hundred small, handcrafted batches of varietal cacao bean blends, Gary announced the first of the E. Guittard line in May 2001, with additions to the line released in early 2002.
Gary foresees E. Guittard as taking on a major part of the artisan chocolate market. As ever at the Guittard Chocolate Company, Gary notes that one of the company`s strengths continues to be the demonstrated ability to remain flexible, personal-—-"artisanal". He looks forward to the advent of more at-home chocolate candy-making, to serving consumers with increased sophistication of awareness of cacao history and bean varietals, to bringing more of the European interest in artisan chocolate to America, and to what appears to be a still deeper love affair with Theobroma cacao—the bean that first captivated Europe nearly five hundred years ago.