Food by VICE

San Francisco's Last Handmade Fortune Cookie Factory Is in Danger

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company's rent has gone from $1,400 to $6,000 in the past three years.

by Bettina Makalintal
Mar 13 2019, 2:00pm

Photo: Manny Crisostomo/Sacramento Bee/MCT via Getty Images

Machine-made fortune cookies might be near ubiquitous, as has been the case since the mid-1960s when the process was automated. But in San Francisco, one company is still rolling and folding them by hand, a process it’s been doing for even longer. Since 1962, the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company has produced handmade fortune cookies, and it’s generally considered the last company to do so in the city.

San Francisco is getting more and more expensive, though, so the company’s future isn’t clear. Its competitors have already been priced out by the city, as the BBC reported last week, and Golden Gate could be next. As co-owner Kevin Chan told the BBC, rent for the company’s Chinatown factory has gone from $1,400 to $6,000 per month in just the past three years.

Chan told the BBC that the business isn’t profitable, especially in a changing San Francisco. The price difference between Golden Gate’s cookies and cookies from a larger, automated factory is so great that the company no longer does wholesale. Golden Gate’s handmade cookies take an hour and a half per case of 400, which sells for $14. The same number of machine-made cookies would sell for about $8, since those factories can make millions per day.

Despite all of that, Chan said that he doesn’t want to give up his family’s business or cookie-making traditions. “My pride is to be open as long as I can,” Chan told SFGate, but it’s not clear how the numbers will shake up when he needs to renew the lease in two years.

Situations like Chan’s are common in San Francisco now, as the tech sector continues to grow. Huge rent hikes have caused restaurants all over the city to close, and restaurants struggle to find workers as rising rents make minimum wage jobs less appealing. Small food businesses instead find ways to cut staff or automate. As a former restaurant owner wrote for the Bold Italic, a lack of labor, creativity, and care have become the “the desperate realities of San Francisco’s restaurant market.”

San Francisco’s problems are only projected to get worse. Last week, the New York Times stated, “Thousands of New Millionaires Are About to Eat San Francisco Alive.” When startups like Uber, Lyft, and Slack go public this year, even more rich people will descend on the Bay Area, which will change the housing market and likely cause even more displacement for people and small businesses.

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