A little girl zipped down 16th Street on her scooter Thursday afternoon and came to a screeching halt in front of the Joseph Schmidt chocolate store.
She yelled at her mother, who was walking a few paces behind. “Mom! Can I have some chocolate?”
“No,” said the mother and walked past her daughter.
The little girl lingered and gazed at the colorful Easter display in the storefront window, mesmerized.
Perhaps mom would’ve had a change of heart if she’d known the Joseph Schmidt store at 16th and Castro will close its doors for good on June 30.
The store is where the Schmidt chocolate dynasty began after the operation outgrew a garage. The chocolates are now manufactured at a factory located at 16th and Folsom streets that will cease production April 3. The corporate office will remain open another six months.
The news came as an unpleasant surprise to Ana Victorino, who walked out of the store with a bag of almond, hazelnut, Irish creme and champagne truffles.
“That’s depressing. I’ve been eating these for 15 years. I grew up with Joseph Schmidt chocolates,” she said.
Joseph Schmidt chocolates have always made an appearance at Victorino family gatherings, including those at Christmas.
“When you grow up in a foodie city you have high expectations,” Victorino said.
Valdemar Duran was just as disappointed, but had some advice for Hershey’s Co.
“They were a little pricey. If anything Hershey’s should change their products to Joseph Schmidt,” he said.
Anne and Ana Keynes were revisiting their old San Francisco stomping grounds during a cross-country road trip when they received the bad news.
Ana Keynes was blunt, “That stinks because Hershey’s sucks.”
She prefers the truffles while Anne will miss the turtles. Anne already has substitutes in mind to satisfy her chocolate tooth.
“We mostly buy European chocolates,” she said, recommending Trader Joe’s bulk dark chocolate.
There are three months left before hardcore Schmidt fans will have to search for a substitute. During that time the store will host multiple sales and appearances from Schmidt.
After Easter, holiday-themed chocolates will be on sale for 50 percent off. Starting in May there will be sales through June designed to push as many confections out the door as possible.
“I’m in mourning,” said John, who declined to give his last name. “I wasn’t surprised. When I heard Hershey’s bought them I knew the end was near.”
John purchased one of the popular batik Easter Bunny boxes of mini truffles and a Scharffen Berger Asante bar. Asante is made entirely of cacao beans from Ghana. The Joseph Schmidt staff had free samples at the register.
“It’s sad to lose an institution that was reliable and here,” he said.
Customers aren’t the only ones feeling the loss.
“I know the neighborhood will miss it,” said Ike Shehadeh, owner of Ike’s Place.
Shehadeh always noticed customers arriving with Joseph Schmidt bags, especially over the holidays.
Tangerine, a restaurant next door to Joseph Schmidt, forged a special bond with the shop.
“We’re very sad. We have a lot of customers that shop there on Saturdays and Sundays while waiting for a table for brunch,” said Catherine Poshepny, manager of Tangerine.
“When we had charity events they always donated truffles, and those are the most expensive items they have. We have an excellent relationship with them, like family. Their staff always comes over to hang out,” she said.
Joseph Schmidt takes their relationship with customers and corporate neighbors seriously. So much so that a special neighborhood garage sale is planned for May.
“It will be a way to honor the bond and get out years of stuff that’s accumulated in the store, such as decorations, furniture, ribbons, gift wrap and retired boxes,” said Lisa DiPlacido, regional retail manager.
The famous batik boxes will be on sale for $1 apiece. Joseph Schmidt will be at the garage sale to sign boxes. Even the giant chocolate sculptures of Coit Tower, an extended stocking leg and the San Francisco skyline will be for sale.
“They are over a year old and not edible, but it will be a great opportunity for a Schmidt fan,” said DiPlacido.
Everything must go. Or, almost everything.
Schmidt will keep the workshop equipment that made up part of his original factory.