Jenna Lane / KCBS Radio

Famed Fortune Cookie Company Struggles To Hold Onto Tradition

Jenna Lane
March 08, 2019 - 2:54 pm

SAN FRANCISCO — The rent for the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory has quadrupled in recent years, but the owners say many other small businesses in Chinatown are facing the same problem. They are vowing to keep their doors open, and its tradition alive of folding cookies by hand. 

The owners say the rent increase is a hardship, but their factory is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Kevin Chan runs the business that his mother and uncle founded in 1962.

"It's like a museum," he said. "You've got school kids come here, they enjoy the cookies. My point is to stay here as long as I can, to serve the city of San Francisco and serve the people around the world. Because they love fortune cookies. They love our city. The fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco."

The staple sweet treat at a Chinese restaurants across the country were invented in San Francisco, according to the American Museum of National History

Visitors to Russ Alley often find a line out the door of the factory for the chance to purchase some treats. 

On the recommendation of her tour bus driver, Lacey Brand from Germany poked her head in. She had always wondered how the slips of paper got inside fortune cookies, and here were two women with gloves on their nimble fingers, folding a fortune into every three-inch disc that two creaking machines churned out.

"It's very cool," she said. "We didn't know how these cookies were made, and it's so interesting to see how it all works."

Chan even writes some of the fortunes because, he says, they make people happy.  

Asked what fortune he might write for his own business, Chan thought for a moment before saying, "Stay open. Serve the city. Happiness is serving. That's my fortune to you all."​