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Last SF Fortune Cookie Factory Needs More Than Good Fortune to Stay Open

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Kevin Chan will be awake at 3 a.m. writing fortunes for those sweet folded cookies we devour at the end of our dim sum feasts. Secretly, we all love those little strips of paper with messages of encouragement or prophecy. Hands slap at each other as friends and family fight over the cookie pile that covers the bill – getting the “right” fortune just makes your day.

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory has been a driving force behind millions of treasured fortunes just like the one you carry around in your wallet for good luck. But the family-run company, which has been in operation since 1962, is facing the same grim financial reality that has so many longtime businesses packing it up for good.

In an interview with BBC, Chan expressed that he just does not know how long he will be able to keep the doors open at their Chinatown factory with the three part-time employees who work alongside his mother, the keeper of the secret cookie recipe.

Little treasures being made at Golden Gate Fortune Cooke Factory in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Calif. Photo courtesy of Souvenir Finder

Although Chan is concerned, he is equally defiant.

“But this is the heart of the factory, here on Ross Alley,” Chan said. “No matter much rent they charge me, I say ‘go for it.’”

And go for it they are. The rent was $900 when they opened for business in 1962. In 2016, it was still fairly reasonable at $1,400 per month, but in the three years since, rent on the building has more than quadrupled to a staggering $5,750.

Unless the Chans plan to start gouging customers for each of the 15,000 “cookie products” they make each day, it is hard to see how the last remaining fortune factory will survive the next round of increase when their lease is up for renewal. But if Chan has his way, survive is exactly what he intends to do.

The family takes enormous pride in their work and the legacy they’ve established in San Francisco. Chan invites visitors inside to see how the cookies are made, making the factory with its antique machinery as much museum as it is business. But as he explained to SF Gate, visitors are dwindling in the old neighborhood as the prices hike and new people who come to town have less appreciation for the old ways.

Still, Chan and his mother are committed to holding their ground as long as possible, because “fortunes are supposed to make people happy.”

To Chan and his dedication, we offer this encouragement:

Fortune cookie photo courtesy of Funny Fortune Cookie Sayings

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.