They must have seen this coming.
The last remaining old-fashioned fortune cookie factory in San Francisco is in danger of being forced out of business by a combination of rising rents and the city’s new $15-minimum-wage law, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
For 57 years, tourists, schoolchildren and locals have squeezed into the small storefront of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory for a free sample and a sight of nimble-fingered workers folding fortune cookies the old-fashioned way.
But the future is uncertain for the last remaining fortune cookie factory in San Francisco, which the city granted legacy business status in 2016. Facing frequent rent and wage increases and fewer visitors, co-owner Kevin Chan is unsure how long he’ll be able to keep the company his mother co-founded in 1962 running.
Despite being awarded legacy business status by the city in 2016, it is struggling to survive because the monthly rent it pays for its tiny Chinatown storefront has climbed to $6,000, up from just $1,400 three years ago.
Since the factory opened in 1962 (it was founded by current operator Kevin Chan’s mother), schoolchildren and tourists have crowded into the factory to witness its part-time workers making fortune cookies “the old fashioned way” – i.e. folding them by hand. Since the forces of rapid gentrification began to take hold, Chan said he has tried to position the factory as a bulwark against the forces of rising real-estate prices and the city’s carpetbagging workforce. Instead, he sees it as a monument to heritage and history of San Francisco’s Chinatown.
But rising costs for sugar and flour, as well as the increased wages he must pay his part-time workforce and the costs associated with occupying the building, have very nearly forced Chan out. And though his business is technically eligible for grants from the city due to its protected status, Chan said the program is pretty much useless to him because financial awards are based on the number of full time workers employed (all his workers are part time).
And then there’s the competition from factory made fortune cookies.
“They’ve devalued the quality of the fortune cookie,” Chan explained. Golden Gate’s cookies are made from a secret recipe know only by Chan’s mother. They’re folded and baked on machinery dating back to 1952.
Still, Chen is determined to hold out for as long as he can. But with his next lease renewal coming up in two to three years, he’s not feeling very optimistic. “My pride is to be open as long as I can. I don’t want to disappoint.”