TCHO, the high-end chocolate company founded in 2005, will move its entire production and retail facility from San Francisco’s Pier 17 and an East Bay warehouse to 3100 San Pablo Ave. (just south of Ashby) in southwest Berkeley.
The company has signed a 12-year lease, with an option to grow, for 49,000 square feet in the Marchant Building, part of a 395,000-square-foot property consisting of retail, office, R&D, and light industrial space. The move will begin in April.
TCHO’s recently appointed CEO, Andrew Burke, said the move was prompted by the need for more space as the company is growing fast. “We looked extensively for a long time, but could not find the space we needed in San Francisco. The Marchant Building was the ideal mixed-use space –manufacturing/warehouse/
The Marchant Building, which was used by the University of California as a storage facility for 28 years, straddles Berkeley, Emeryville and Oakland. The university vacated the building in 2010 and it has been mostly empty for the past few years, according to Berkeley’s economic development manager Michael Caplan who said the city is “pleased as punch” at the TCHO move. In 2011, the property was considered by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for its new campus, but it chose Richmond instead.
LBA Realty, which owns the Marchant Building, has renovated the entire property and other tenants, including LA Fitness and Cal, have taken space there. Clif Bar, which moved its main plant out of Berkeley to Emeryville in 2006, has taken about 18,000 square feet for what is believed to be a test kitchen. (The property’s street address was changed from 6701 San Pablo Ave. Oakland to 3100 San Pablo Ave. Berkeley in a memorandum of understanding brought before the Emeryville City Council on April 16, 2013.)
Caplan said there has been a “clustering effect” in West Berkeley, with many artisanal food production companies, breweries and wineries setting up shop there.
“It makes perfect sense that TCHO would want to be in Berkeley,” he said. “Berkeley is known for its artisanal food production, the farm-to-table movement and culinary innovation.” Companies like TCHO and Clif Bar like to have a relationship to place, he said.
“We are proud to be joining the growing food movement in Berkeley and Oakland,” Burke said.
Caplan said the all-purpose Marchant Building, which does not qualify as a protected space under city zoning laws, offers the opportunity to have a mix of uses, be it offices, production facilities or labs.
“It’s a very cool building with industrial appeal,” he said. (Read more about the history of the Marchant Building, which is named after a company that made calculating machines.)
Caplan added that the TCHO move is part of what he sees as a “renaissance” in this specific part of South-West Berkeley, citing as evidence the expansion of the Weatherford BMW plant, the arrival of Berkeley Bowl West, and The Higby housing development on the south-east corner of Ashby and San Pablo avenues that is currently under construction.
TCHO was co-founded in 2005 by Timothy Childs, a technology and chocolate entrepreneur, and Karl Bittong, a veteran of the chocolate industry. Burke was named CEO just last week. He replaced Louis Rossetto, who co-founded Wired magazine.
TCHO’s arrival in the city comes four years after premium chocolate maker Charles Chocolates closed its operation on the Berkeley borders in Emeryville and moved to San Francisco’s Mission District. West Berkeley was also home to the Scharffen Berger factory until 2009 when Hershey, the company’s owners since 2005, moved production out of state in 2009.