Bay Area chocolate makers closing their doors

January 28, 2009 7:50:35 PM PST
Hershey's announced Wednesday that Scharffen Berger's plant in Berkeley and the Joseph Schmidt chocolate factory in San Francisco will shut down sometime this year.

A lot of chocolate lovers had not yet heard the news when they visited the Scharffen Berger plant in Berkeley.

Many said it was a sign of the times.

"When you have big business pretty much running our country, they're gonna grab up all the competition and consolidate them; I mean that's how they make money," Scharffen Berger customer Mel Elliott said.

Hershey's bought the two gourmet chocolate brands five years ago.

The company said the closings are part of a plan to consolidate production into existing plants in the Midwest; 150 workers will be laid off.

A reliable source told ABC7 the reason for the move is that the Bay Area plants were costing Hershey's too much money.

"When the subprime crisis finds its way to chocolates, we know we're in a mess," Dr. Terry Connelly said. Connelly is dean of the business school at Golden Gate University and he is not surprised at the plant closings.

"We're going to see a lot of consolidation in companies that are affected either by the cost of commodities or by a downturn in consumer demand," Connelly said.

Venee Call-Ferrer left Scharffen Berger's retail division last fall; she said staff was already concerned back then.

"Because we're really small and if we're not making enough money, were not producing enough, what's going to end up happening," Call-Ferrer said.

The popular tours at the Scharffen Berger plant will also stop but Hershey's said its stores in San Francisco's Ferry Building and Santana Row in San Jose will stay open.


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