A 400% rent increase might mean curtains for the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, where fortune cookies have been made by hand since 1962.
The latest tale of an exponential San Francisco rent increase is making international headlines, as Chinatown’s venerable Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is struggling to stay afloat amidst a giant new monthly rent bill. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the cookie factory may have to close, amidst a 400% rent hike and the realities of competing against automated, mass-production fortune cookie facilities.
“I'm worried about the future right now," cookie factory co-owner Kevin Chan told the Chronicle. "I don't know what to do.”
While the cookie factory did gain the prized San Francisco legacy business status in 2016, that designation is of little use in the face a more than 400% rent increase. KPIX reports that the rent on the Chinatown facility had been $1,400 per month just three years ago, but as of last August, that rent ballooned to $5,750 per month.
Other financial factors are playing into the cookie factory’s escalating costs of doing business, like increasing prices of flour and sugar, and San Francisco’s $15 minimum wage. But the whopping rent increase is the costliest new variable for the old-school handmade cookie factory, as Chan tries to maintain the tradition of lovingly hand-folded fortune cookies that deliver a far more fantastic taste than their mass-produced counterparts.
"Even I don't know the recipe," Chan told the BBC. "It's my mum's secret." That ‘mum’ still works at the factory, which remains open seven days a week, and Chan himself writes the fortunes. But that traditional model lacks the ruthless efficiency (and total disregard for quality) of Chan’s industrial competitors.
“They use these fully automated machines,” he tells the BBC. “They can make 1 million cookies in a day, individually wrapped, and sell a box of 400 for $8.95. I cannot compete with that."
Long a favorite of tourists and kids on school field trips, the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is still open and is determined to fend off closure. "My pride is to be open as long as I can,” Chan told the Chronicle. “I don't want to disappoint."
If you want to help the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory not disappoint its legions of sweet tooth fans, you can visit the factory seven days a week at 56 Ross Alley starting at 9 a.m. daily. Be sure to throw some money into their tip jar, so their handmade cookies and paper fortunes don’t get the slip.