TCHO’s chocolate signs 12-year lease for space in West Berkeley

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TCHO/Courtesy

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Local chocolate connoisseurs will be able to experience the production of gourmet chocolate firsthand when TCHO’s chocolate factory moves to Berkeley in April.

After signing a 12-year lease, the San Francisco-based chocolate company will be moving its production and national headquarters from Pier 17 and its East Bay warehouse to West Berkeley, where it will occupy a 49,000-square-foot area — almost the size of a football field.

Located at 3100 San Pablo Ave., in the Marchant Building, the new factory will be more than 30 percent larger than the space TCHO currently occupies in San Francisco and will include space for manufacturing, warehousing, offices and a future retail store.

The company’s decision to move came after its current space, adjacent to the Exploratorium, became too small to house its future expansion.

“This new building allows them to combine all of it — being able to keep everything together was very important to them,” said Ken Meyersieck, senior vice president for the San Francisco East Bay region at Colliers International, the building’s real estate manager.

Community involvement with the company will continue as it did at its San Francisco location, with tastings and free tours to the public.

“One of the foundations of the company is educating consumers (about) the process of making great chocolate and our belief in exploring the pure flavors inherent in cacao,” said TCHO CEO, Andrew Burke, in an email.“The additional space in the Marchant Building will allow us to provide consumers with a more extensive, unfettered look at the entire chocolate making process … We believe TCHO can be a destination in West Berkeley.”

The property, which has been refurbished to meet the needs of companies looking for mixed-use space, also holds suites for other companies, including UC Berkeley, which currently uses the space for storage. The campus also previously owned the building, housing the UC Printing Services, which went out of business in 2010.

Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong hopes TCHO’s move to West Berkeley will help continue the revitalization of the neighborhood and act as an anchor, along with Annie’s Homegrown — which relocated its headquarters to West Berkeley in 2011 — to bring other food-, wine- and beer-related companies to the area.

“Startups are also starting to move here because it’s less expensive — craft food and wine places start on a budget,” Armstrong said. “It’s got the hip designator on it — it’s where things are happening.”

As the company grows, it will also be sourcing some of its workforce from Berkeley and the East Bay, according to Burke.

“The UC, the city, the Chamber of Commerce — we are all working together to fit the pieces of the puzzle, to get the word out that Berkeley is open for business,” Armstrong said.

Contact Robin Simmonds at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @@rsimmonds_dc.