Domingo Ghirardelli

Class of 2012

Domingo Ghirardelli was born in Rapallo, Italy, in 1817 to Giuseppe Ghirardelli and Maddalena Ferretto, who also raised his sister Agnese.

Early in his life, he began an apprenticeship at Romanengo’s chocolate shop, which was his first introduction to the confectionery industry.

At 20 years old, he married Elisabetta and then moved to Uruguay where he found a job at a chocolate and coffee store. One year later, he sailed to Lima, Peru, intending to establish a chocolate empire. He opened a confectionery store next to a business owned by American James Lick, who took Domingo’s chocolate to San Francisco on his return to the U.S.

After the death of his first wife, Domingo married Carmen Alvarado in 1849. They had six children: Angela, Elvira, Domingo, Eugenio, Giuseppe and Luigi.

Domingo left Peru in 1949 for California upon hearing tales of the Gold Rush and after failing as a prospector he opened a general store in Stockton, where he sold supplies and confections to local miners. After several months, he opened a second store in San Francisco.

A series of fires in 1851 destroyed both of Domingo’s stores, and forced him to salvage what he had left to open Cairo Coffee House in September of the same year. That business failed and he formed Ghirardely & Girard on the corner of Kearny and Washington streets — this eventually became Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. The company imported 200 pounds of cocoa beans in 1852, according to sources.

As business flourished, Domingo brought his family from Peru to America. In September 1853, he moved the company to Jackson Street. Two years later, the company moved to the corner of Greenwich and Powell streets, which also served as the family’s living quarters.

By 1866 Ghirardelli’s cocoa bean imports reached 1,000 pounds and after three of Domingo’s four sons joined the business in 1884 the company focused on chocolate, coffee and spices. During this time, it employed 30 people and shipped products to China, Japan, Mexico and the eastern U.S.

By 1885 the company was importing 450,000 pounds of beans annually.

Domingo retired in 1892, leaving the company to his sons. He passed on January 17, 1894.